Cargo ship Dali now expected to head Monday to Virginia, will offload containers

A convoy of seven vessels is expected to sail the length of the Chesapeake Bay on Monday in what U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Baxter Smoak described as a “big milestone.”

The 984-foot Dali container ship has been in the Baltimore area since March 26, when it crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, decimating the essential structure and killing six construction workers. The collapse took out an integral thoroughfare for vehicular traffic that had stood for nearly 50 years and the resulting debris blocked Baltimore’s shipping channel for over two months.

The vessel is expected to depart town Monday for the first time since the collapse, accompanied by three McAllister Towing tugboats, one Moran Towing tugboat, a Coast Guard vessel and a work boat from the Resolve Marine salvage company. The Coast Guard will enforce a 500-yard safety zone around the Dali.

The 16- to 20-hour trip to Norfolk, Virginia, had been planned for Friday, but is now tentatively scheduled for Monday morning, as long as weather remains as forecast, Smoak said.

After the Key Bridge collapse, the Dali sat in the shipping channel as crews worked to clear debris on and around the vessel. Authorities used explosives to blow up a piece of bridge that sat atop the Dali and refloated the vessel in late May.

Of the original 21 crew members aboard the ship, 10 have been cleared to return home, while the remaining 11 will stay in the Baltimore area. Given their knowledge of the vessel, four of the crew members will accompany a replacement crew to Norfolk, said Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for Synergy Marine Group, the vessel operator, before returning to Baltimore.

In Norfolk, all of the containers remaining on the Dali will be unloaded and the ship will receive repairs, Wilson said. Afterward, it will move to another shipyard for more extensive fixes.