Dot’s Reading Room: Baltimore Harbor Bridge Collapse

March 28, 2024

The tragedy of the bridge collapse in Baltimore Harbor is on everyone’s mind today. Although an entirely different situation, it is eerily reminiscent of a bridge collapse in downtown Minneapolis in August 2007 and, depending on where you live, may raise questions about the safety of ALL bridges.

The Conversation’s senior politics and democracy editor, Naomi Schalit, spoke with Captain Allan Post, a veteran ship’s officer, about the role a ship pilot plays in bringing a large ship in and out of a harbor. Post says the disaster was “absolutely” every crew member’s nightmare. The article is headlined: 

‘I’ve captained ships into tight ports like Baltimore, and this is how captains like me work with harbor pilots to avoid deadly collisions’

Allan Post, Deputy Superintendent of the Texas A&M Maritime Academy. Source: The Conversation

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

What was your first thought when you heard about the accident?

Post: My first thought was, thank God it happened at night because of the low amount of traffic on the bridge. If that had happened during the daytime, casualties would be in the thousands. My heart aches for those lives lost.

There were two ship pilots aboard the ship as it left its berth in the Port of Baltimore. Can you tell us what ship pilots do?

Post: Ship pilots are brought on board in what are considered restricted maneuverability or navigation areas. They are local experts who are usually certified by the state or federal government to provide advice to the master of the vessel as to how to control the vessel, safely and adequately, through the pilotage waters, which in this case would be down the river from the Port of Baltimore.

Pilots are well practiced in close-quarters maneuvering, especially with tugboats and docking the vessel alongside the assigned berth.

Are there legal requirements for ship pilots to be present both going out of and coming in these restricted areas?

Post: Yes, there are – state law, federal law or both.

This is an almost 1,000-foot-long vessel. Is that big, small or medium?

Post: That’s about standard size these days. Ship sizes have absolutely grown monstrous over the years. But 1,000 feet is just about normal.

Read the full interview here:

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