Port of Baltimore Closed After Catastrophic Collapse of Francis Scott Key Bridge

By: Alex Trent | Published: Mar 26, 2024

Baltimore officials have confirmed that traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore has been halted after a devastating cargo ship crash that caused the Francis Scott Key Bridge to collapse.

Early Tuesday morning, a transport container ship crashed right into a bridge support column sending cars falling into the Patapsco River. Search and rescue efforts are still ongoing for missing people.

State of Emergency

Wes Moore, the Governor of Maryland where Baltimore is located, issued a state of emergency as rescuers are desperate to pull people out of the water.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Maryland seen at sunset.

Source: RCraig09/Wikimedia

The bridge is 1.6 miles long and connects the Baltimore Beltway and Interstate 695 over the Patapsco River. A horrifying video shared online shows the moment the ship struck the bridge, causing it to break apart in pieces.


Shipping Suspended

The Port of Baltimore is one of the busiest ports in the entire United States. However, Maryland’s transportation secretary Paul Wiedefeld told reporters that it would be suspending in and out traffic, which speaks to the seriousness of the cargo accident.

A vessel transporting international commerce across the sea.

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

“Vessel traffic into and out of the Port of Baltimore is suspended until further notice, but the port is still open for truck transactions,” Wiedefeld said.

News Conference

A few hours after the cargo collision that reportedly happened around 1:20 am, the Baltimore Fire Department Chief James Wallace gave a press conference to update residents about the rescue efforts.

A single microphone is photographed in the center of the frame.

Source: Bogomil Mihaylov/Unsplash

Wallace said they were “still very much in an active search and rescue posture,” and they were searching for “upwards of seven individuals.”

Still Missing

Sky News reports that missing people are still being searched for in the water. At 10:30 am, there were still six people suspected to be missing after the bridge collapse. 

A view of sunlight filtering in under a large body of water.

Source: Cristian Palmer/Unsplash

Rescue efforts by this time had already pulled two people out of the water. The twisted and destroyed bridge metal still hangs over the water, complicating rescue efforts.

Developing Mass Casualty Event

AP cited one official as saying the incident is a “developing mass casualty event.” Rescuers think people still in need of rescue were those working on the bridge when it suddenly collapsed.

The city of Baltimore seen as the sun sets.

Source: Irina Sitnikova/Wikimedia

Time is not on the rescuers’ side as they must navigate the tricky debris to locate additional survivors.


Indescribable Sound

One Baltimore resident named Jim who lives near the Patapsco River, described being awoken in his house at 1:30 am by the loud noise.

A dock in Baltimore Maryland featuring boats and yachts.

Source: Irina Sitnikova/Wikimedia

“It was an indescribable sound,” Jim said. “At first I thought it was a sonic boom from the aircraft. I never imagined something like this could happen.”


Vessel Malfunction

An investigation is still ongoing to determine what ultimately caused the cargo ship to crash into the bridge, but early reports indicate that the vessel may have lost power.

A transport ship full of shipping containers.

Source: Andy Li/Unsplash

US Senator Ben Cardin told The Baltimore Sun “What’s been indicated is the vessel lost power, and when you lose power you lose steering. But they’re doing a full investigation.”



The Associated Press reported that the cargo ship issued a mayday signal just before hitting the bridge, citing comments from the Mayor. 

The inner harbor of Baltimore seen as the sun rises in the sky.

Source: ActionVance/Unsplash

This mayday came only moments before the crash by the ship’s operators. Thanks to the warning, this mayday signal helped authorities limit vehicle traffic going onto the bridge and managed to stop traffic before the collapse.


Unimaginable Tragedy

At the first news conference concerning the bridge collapse, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott tried to put to words the indescribable feeling people were experiencing. The destruction that the cargo ship inflicted on the bridge was so large in scale.

The Francis Scott Key bridge located in the state of Maryland.

Source: Larry Syverson/Wikimedia

“This is a tragedy that you could never imagine … It looked like something out of an action movie,” Scott said.


Vehicle Traffic

The vehicle traffic that would have usually been driving across the steel bridge Tuesday morning has been redirected away while rescue efforts are ongoing. The bridge was part of Interstate 695 and was one of Baltimore’s three toll-crossing areas.

A close up view of stopping traffic on a roadway.

Source: Nabeel Syed/Unsplash

A Maryland Transportation Authority report estimated that nearly 34,000 people cross the bridge every day.


Long Road Ahead

Baltimore officials are already predicting that the resolution to this incident will not come quickly. While rescue efforts are the current priority, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olzewski Jr. spoke about his worries about the fallout of the bridge collapse.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore seen during sunrise.

Source: Ewillison/Wikimedia

“We know that we have a long road ahead, not just in search-and-rescue, but in the fallout from this,” Olszewski Jr. said.