Power Loss Incident on Cargo Ship at Baltimore Port

Source: Karl Merton Ferron via Capital Gazette 

On July 1st, 2024, a significant incident occurred at the Port of Baltimore involving the MV Bellavia, a 965-foot cargo vessel flagged by Liberia. Shortly after departing the Seagirt Marine Terminal, the Bellavia experienced a brief loss of power. The ship was unable to maintain course and promptly returned to its berth.

While fortunately not resulting in any damage or injuries, this incident raises important safety considerations regarding large vessels operating within port environments.

Key Differences Prevent Catastrophe

The Bellavia incident differed crucially from the previous power loss event involving the cargo ship Dali in March, which tragically led to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Unlike the Dali, the Bellavia still had tugboat assistance at the time of the power loss, allowing for safe maneuvering back to the berth. Additionally, Bellavia's crew restored power independently, eliminating the need for an external tow operation.

The U.S. Coast Guard cleared the Bellavia for departure following repairs within 18 hours, and the vessel is currently en route to its next destination.

Ongoing Safety Assessments

Since March, the Coast Guard has been actively investigating this latest power loss incident and similar occurrences in Maryland waters. These investigations underscore the importance of maintaining robust safety protocols to mitigate potential risks of large vessels experiencing power or propulsion issues.

Recent events, including a similar incident involving a large ship in Charleston, South Carolina, further emphasize the need for vigilance. In response to the Key Bridge collapse, the Coast Guard has initiated a broader investigation to assess the evolving challenges posed by increasingly complex and larger vessels navigating U.S. port infrastructure.

Baltimore Port Recovery Efforts Continue

The Port of Baltimore, a cornerstone of the regional economy, is still recovering from the disruptions caused by the Key Bridge collapse. The shipping channel reopened fully in June, and port activity steadily returned to pre-incident levels.

The Bellavia incident serves as a timely reminder of the need for continued focus on safety measures and operational practices to ensure the safe and efficient movement of large vessels within our ports and waterways.

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