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“We have sailed from Baltimore”: Cargo ships begin leaving the port

Stephanie Hughes Apr 25, 2024
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A channel opened Thursday, allowing some ships to leave the Port of Baltimore four weeks after the bridge collapsed. Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

“We have sailed from Baltimore”: Cargo ships begin leaving the port

Stephanie Hughes Apr 25, 2024
Heard on:
A channel opened Thursday, allowing some ships to leave the Port of Baltimore four weeks after the bridge collapsed. Andrew Harnik/Getty Images
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There have been eight cargo ships stuck in the Port of Baltimore for more than four weeks. They’ve been unable to move beyond the wreckage of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge. That’s finally changing: Salvage crews have cleared a new channel through the waterway. It’s 35 feet deep, which will allow several of those ships to move through it.

The shipment of aluminum that the cargo ship the Phatra Naree brought to Baltimore was unloaded weeks ago. The ship has a Thai crew, and Capt. Prachya Prengsieng said they learned Wednesday that they’re finally scheduled to sail through the channel Thursday.

“It’s good, because we stay here too long,” Prengsieng said.

The crew’s shore passes expired about a week ago. Since then, they’ve been confined to the ship, which they’ve spent a lot of time maintaining. Prengsieng said that the container ship Dali’s collision with the bridge made him hyperaware of all the things that could go wrong. 

“We have to know our ship, and we have to in emergency case know what to do,” he said.

He doesn’t know where the ship will go next, but said the plan is to get through the channel safely, drop anchor and await instructions. But just getting these cargo ships moving is good for business. 

“The fact that they’re finally leaving, right, there’s a large opportunity cost to having sat there the entire time,” said Christina DePasquale, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s business school. 

She said it’s hard to know the total cost to the economy of the ships being stuck, but estimates it’s at least $10 million for each one.

“In terms of lost time, extended wages that are being paid, but also not being able to deliver those products or use that ship for other things that they had it planned for,” she said.

The ships leaving is a big step for the port as well. DePasquale said there’s an emotional value in seeing this happen. 

Reporter Stephanie Hughes’ messages with Prachya Prengsieng, captain of the Phatra Naree, one of the cargo ships that’s been stuck in the Port of Baltimore for weeks. (Stephanie Hughes/Marketplace)

“Of having a checklist, and as you continue to make progress, that’s obviously going to keep, you know, keep spirits up,” she said.

On the Phatra Naree, Capt. Prachya Prengsieng said his bosses are ready for the ship to get moving. He has a couple months left in his contract, then he plans to return to his home in Bangkok and take his family on vacation.

Their favorite destination? The sea. 

“But for a seaman, we are used to the sea,” he said with a laugh. “Yeah, but no problem.”

He said he doesn’t plan to bring them to Baltimore, at least not any time soon.

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