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Cargo ship that destroyed Baltimore bridge towed to port

The cargo ship that collided with a Baltimore bridge nearly two months ago, collapsing it and killing six highway workers, was refloated on Monday and towed back into port.

Live television images of the operation showed a flotilla of tugboats slowly pushing and towing the M/V Dali away from the remains of the shattered Francis Scott Key Bridge and towards a marine terminal.

The Key Bridge Response Unified Command said the complex operation involved the Coast Guard, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Maryland Department of the Environment and other agencies.

It said the Dali, which is still laden with stacks of containers, was refloated at high tide and began the four-kilometre journey into port at a speed of roughly 1.6 kilometres per hour.

The Singapore-flagged ship has been blocking one of America’s busiest ports since it lost power and plowed into a support column of the bridge on 26 March, causing it to collapse and killing six road workers who had been filling potholes overnight.

The 106,000-ton ship had been headed for Sri Lanka at the time of the accident.

Moving the nearly 300-metre container vessel is a major step in reopening the key shipping channel.

The accident shut down the port, though temporary channels have allowed some traffic in and out of Baltimore.

Authorities have been working around the clock to clear the fallen bridge and reopen the waterway after it was rendered impassable due to the wreckage.

Demolition experts used explosives last week to remove parts of the collapsed steel bridge trapping the Dali, which still has its 21-man crew onboard.

Salvagers then drew out up to 4.7 million litres of water previously pumped into the Dali to stabilise it as ballast, before releasing its anchors and mooring lines.

Crew still on board

The port is a key hub for the auto industry, handling almost 850,000 autos and light trucks last year – more than any other US port, according to state figures.

In April the FBI launched a criminal probe into the incident, with agents boarding the Dali as part of the investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is also investigating, said the ship had two electricity blackouts in the moments before the disaster.

The crew – 20 Indians and one Sri Lankan – have not been allowed to leave the ship since the accident and have remained on board, even during the series of controlled demolitions.

The NTSB said the crew had been tested multiple times before and after the accident for drugs and alcohol and that none had been detected.

US President Joe Biden promised last month to “move heaven and earth” to rebuild the bridge, pledging federal funds and saying a new channel for shipping traffic would open by the end of May.

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