March 27, 2024

"The majority of the financial fallout is likely to lay primarily with the insurance industry...."

"Industry experts told FT that insurers could pay out losses for bridge damage, port disruption, and any loss of life. The collapse could drive 'one of the largest claims ever to hit the marine (re)insurance market,' John Miklus, president of the American Institute of Marine Underwriters, told Insurance Business.... The Dali is covered by the Britannia Steam Ship Insurance Association Ltd.... Britannia... told FT it was 'working closely with the ship manager and relevant authorities to establish the facts and to help ensure that this situation is dealt with quickly and professionally.' Britannia is one of 12 mutual insurers included in the International Group of P&I Clubs, which maintains more than $3 billion of reinsurance cover...."

From "Here's who could be responsible for paying for the Baltimore bridge disaster" (Business Insider).

Despite all that insurance, Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."

By the way, isn't it amazing to think of a bridge standing all these years — since 1977 — when a crash into one pier was always capable of bringing the whole structure down? Think of all the ships that passed through without hitting either pier. The bridge was always vulnerable.

The piers on a bridge act as a kind of leg and are what is known as “nonredundant” parts of a bridge’s structure. If a pier is somehow taken out, there is nothing to compensate for the missing structural support, and a collapse of the bridge is all but inevitable, most of the analysts said.

Yet the collapse in Baltimore on Tuesday might have been avoided, some of the engineers said, if the piers had been better able to block, deflect or withstand such a collision. And some of the engineers questioned whether the bridge’s piers had adequate blocking devices that are known with a self-explanatory name: fenders.

In bridge engineering, fenders can be anything from simple pyramids of rocks piled around the pylons to major concrete rings padded with slats of wood, designed to shield the bridge’s supports from damage by water or collisions.

It was not clear whether any such protection built around the bridge’s piers was sufficient to guard against even a glancing hit from a 95,000-gross-ton container vessel.

And the U.S. secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, expressed doubt on Tuesday that any bridge could have withstood such a serious collision.

“This is a unique circumstance. I do not know of a bridge that has been constructed to withstand a direct impact from a vessel of this size,” he told reporters....

I wonder how much bridge engineering Pete Buttigieg knows. I'm able to see that what the engineers are talking about — the fenders — are ways to avoid a "direct impact." But why is Buttigieg stepping up to cast doubt on whether our existing bridges are all vulnerable to one knock from a big ship? And if the bridge was only vulnerable because it was "a vessel of this size," then why weren't vessels of that size forbidden to pass under that bridge?

It seems as though both Biden and Buttigieg are trying nudge the incident into the "act of God" category. Why? Maybe they ought to be more careful about what they say. The insurers must pay. And I refuse to accept that kind of vulnerability in our bridges. It's ludicrous.

Engineers who reviewed images of the bridge both before and after the collapse said no significant fender structures were visible....

Take note. 

The structure’s apparent vulnerability left some engineers dumbfounded.

“This is a huge shock,” [said Shankar Nair, a structural engineer with over half a century of experience who is a member of the National Academy of Engineering]. “A bridge of that size and importance should not collapse when hit by an errant vessel.”...

134 comments:

loudogblog said...

"Despite all that insurance, Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort.""

It's an election year and Biden is trying to buy votes.

MadisonMan said...

Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."
You know why. Joe Biden has been in the Government for 50+ years. Of course his solution to everything is "More Government"
I wonder how much bridge engineering Pete Buttigieg knows
Zero.

rwnutjob said...

It's not his money.
that's a feature not a bug.
Election!

Leland said...

NYT Engineers: Who designed a bridge in the 1970's that couldn't survive an impact by a 140,000 ton NeoPanamax container vessel?

gilbar said...

Despite all that insurance, Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."

of COURSE the did! of COURSE they WILL! HOW could they get the grift, otherwise?

Mason G said...

"It's an election year and Biden is trying to buy votes."

Well- that, and everybody (even Brandon) knows how incompetent his DOT Secretary is and he wanted to reassure people that cleaning up this mess wasn't going to depend on Mayor Pete's "expertise" alone.

Lem the artificially intelligent said...

Someone decided not to put a sturdy enough concrete barrier at the base of the pier to protect it from this very thing.

BarrySanders20 said...

Only large ships the size of small ships shall pass under this bridge.

Ann Althouse said...

"It's an election year and Biden is trying to buy votes."

That doesn't explain it for me. Why isn't he saying he'll insist on the quick resolution of the insurance claims. Instead, he's saying he will spend our money. That might get him somewhere in Baltimore, but Maryland isn't a battle ground state. I think most of us feel that he's careless with our money.

Leland said...

It's an election year and Biden is trying to buy votes.

And it is blue state Maryland. If the same ship hit a Texas bridge, you can bet no one would be offering federal support.

rhhardin said...

Biden was offering a bridge loan.

MadTownGuy said...

"Despite all that insurance, Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."

It will take some time for the insurers to evaluate and settle the claim for the cost of rebuilding the bridge, so it seems it would make more sense for the DOT to front the money and then collect the claim proceeds. Not only that, but if the intent is to bolster the protection around the piers, that additional cost may or may not be covered by the insurance. Likewise, any additional strengthening of the bridge structure may be considered a "betterment" which might not be covered. Some policies (such as private homeowners policies) cover replacement value, but even those policies have exclusions.

Kate said...

Biden knows Congress will say no, mostly for the reasons you list. But he can make those heartless Repubs look bad in the meantime.

rhhardin said...

Tanks have reactive armor, skin that explodes when hit and vaporizes armor piercing shells before they pierce armor. There's an obvious application here in ship vaporization.

Another old lawyer said...

I'm old enough to remember the days when the House had to originate a spending bill, the House and Senate had to pass it after debate and negotiation, and the president had to sign the as-passed bill, all in order to appropriate funds to spend and for what purpose.

Now, presidents just declare spending.

Lem the artificially intelligent said...

In other ports handling these large types of ships, they use tug boats to guide ships in and out of port.

Baltimore was different, apparently.

Btw, I heard yesterday, this might just be the kudegra that finishes off Baltimore.

This port was the only thing still keeping it alive.

Original Mike said...

"I think most of us feel that he's careless with our money."

His recent budget proposal was $7.3 trillion dollars. He has absolutely no regard for our money.

He's also just fucking stupid. It would be interesting to know if he was off the teleprompter.

Steve said...

That doesn't explain it for me. Why isn't he saying he'll insist on the quick resolution of the insurance claims.

Haven’t you heard Joe Biden speak before? He’s not grounded to any policy or at this point rational thought. He is full time pander to whomever is in the room. Also picking up the check with taxpayer dollars is so ingrained at this point he doesn’t really know what else to do. Can he claim credit after the fact if the insurers pay for it?

Achilles said...

“This is a huge shock,” [said Shankar Nair, a structural engineer with over half a century of experience who is a member of the National Academy of Engineering]. “A bridge of that size and importance should not collapse when hit by an errant vessel.”

Half a century of what experience?

My guess is "professor."

That boat weighed A. LOT. The amount of momentum it was carrying would be a very very large number. Any bridge footing that could withstand that sort of accident would be exorbitantly expensive and probably block much of the channel.

R C Belaire said...

Apparently, years before the bridge was built in 1977, there was a serious push to bore a tunnel under that waterway to avoid exactly what happened a few days ago. Of course, lower cost won the day, so now the bridge will be (re)built twice! False economy.

Jersey Fled said...

“ I think most of us feel that he's careless with our money.”

I might say reckless.

Skeptical Voter said...

Why did Joe say that? Because he pulled it right out of that vacuum between his ears. It sounds good--to Joe. So he lets it rip so to speak.

Yes the insurers and ship owners should pay as much as possible as soon as possible. And since a functioning Baltimore containership port is part of the infrastructure on the East Coast then maybe there's a federal role---after the insurers and ship owners pay up.

But there's another point--when a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed in the Loma Prieta earthquake (circa 1989) the bridge was repaired fairly quickly. But in the early 2000s the powers that be decided that the eastern portion of the Bay Bridge needed to be replaced. The project was supposed to take two years--and took closer to ten. Joe can bloviate and feel good about himself--"I'm large and in charge and will get this done".

But the reality is that whatever repairs/replacement of the Francis Scott Key bridge is made, the job is going to be completed long after Joe is out of office--and that's true even if he's re-elected in November. So he can run his mouth--but won't be around for the conclusion of the repairs.

Ambrose said...

“It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."

Everything within the state, nothing outside the state.

Achilles said...

loudogblog said...

"Despite all that insurance, Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort.""

It's an election year and Biden is trying to buy votes.

To be honest this is the type of thing the Federal Government is good for.

Shit happens. We have thousands of bridges like this, and the ability to make them and not have to build them all strong enough to handle an accident like this allows us to build thousands more.

If we have to build every house in Florida or Louisiana or Alabama or Texas to withstand a hurricane we will have a lot fewer houses. If we don't build anything on earthquake faults we will have much less wealth and space. If we don't build things where blizzards happen same effect.

This is what Government is actually for.

Kevin said...

That doesn't explain it for me. Why isn't he saying he'll insist on the quick resolution of the insurance claims. Instead, he's saying he will spend our money.

1. Reinforces for Democrats that whatever happens the solution is government.
2. Opens new avenues for him and his supporters to profit from government contracts.
3. Can add many other items to the bill. If too much pork and not approved, he can use lack of approval to his advantage.
4. Baltimore is filled with capital-b Black people and any lack of commitment will be judged poorly.
5. Trying to remove stench of poor Ohio response from campaign trail.
6. Need to move the story forward and head off the possibility of poor bridge engineering or maintenance issues.
7. Opportunity to remind everyone he's "the infrastructure President", when little infrastructure has been seen.
8. Biden can no longer get home via train because he used to cross over that bridge, making him sad.

Fredrick said...

"Build Back Better" and make both the next president and congress pay the political price. Standard Biden, with a little prompting from "Dr." Jill. Has he promised to name it after Trayvon or George Floyd yet?

Kevin said...

I think most of us feel that he's careless with our money.

Careless would be a marked improvement.

I don't think he's able to spend only carelessly.

donald said...

Yeah, well that’s what it is Ms Althouse, whether you want to or have the capacity to understand. Sometimes a retarded/demented/senile old NE political hack is just that.

The only other possibility is his first instinct is 10% for the big guy.

JK Brown said...

There appears to only be small dolphins (fenders) installed above and below the bridge piers. Likely to stop vessels adrift from laying on the piers broadside.

There are not dolphins around the piers. The built up piers did keep the lower hull of the ship from hitting the pylons, but the containers stacked on the maindeck above the bow flare seem to have actually hit the lower truss that curved in to attach to the pylons.

One might expect that we will learn of long delayed projects to install barrier dolphins as most modern bridges have.

It also looks to me that there was a natural force that caused ships bow to drift to starboard as the Curtis Creek channel intersected the main channel. This would result in the loss of the bow cushion on the starboard side just above the bridge and right where the Dali lost power. I suspect this as the pilot immediately ordered port rudder, and alerted for the bridge to be closed. He seems to have been trying to use the way on the ship to move the bow even more to the north. Perhaps even to ground in the shoal to the north where it would cause the least obstruction. But the ship slowly turned to starboard drifting into an allision with the bridge pier, striking the lower bridge truss as it descended to meet the apex of the 4 angled pylons.

Sebastian said...

"I wonder how much bridge engineering Pete Buttigieg knows."

LOL.

"Instead, he's saying he will spend our money."

What do you mean, "our" money? Such a petty bourgeois notion. Plus what percentage of Baltimore residents pay net federal income tax?

Kevin said...

9. Opportunity to rename bridge in funding legislation after a trans person of color.

Jersey Fled said...

Note this link from ABC 7 Chicago re: a similar bridge on the Delaware River.

https://abc7chicago.com/baltimore-bridge-collapse-maryland-francis-scott-key/14574533/

Gusty Winds said...

Britannia... told FT it was 'working closely with the ship manager and relevant authorities to establish the facts and to help ensure that this situation is dealt with quickly and professionally.

The insurance company investigation is hopefully how we get to the truth of what happened. They have a lot at stake. I don't trust any explanation coming from the FBI or the Biden administration.

Rusty said...

There is a slight chance that the people in charge may not be competent.

CJinPA said...

AP: From 1960 to 2015, there were 35 major bridge collapses worldwide due to ship or barge collision

They're all listed here:
https://apnews.com/article/bridge-collapses-barges-list-1f2d6261d523ddc625aaaf3b32c626bc

I read earlier today that "fenders" (or "dolphins" as they are sometimes called) take up a lot of space, maybe more than was available.

(I also think it's notable that the ship was entering from the side, not straight at the bridge. It HAD to make that sharp right turn or bad things were going to happen.)

Static Ping said...

Biden is an idiot when it comes to being a leader or espousing policies. This was true 50 years ago and it is true today with his dementia riddled brain. His skill set is limited to getting himself elected, graft, and avoiding prosecution, which apparently is sufficient to become President. So, yeah, he said something stupid. He's the con man who knows nothing about what he is talking about but can fool lots of people because they are not experts either or simply not paying attention. These sort of people are common in world history, and they tend to come to an end when they get their followers killed.

Buttigieg is a mediocre politician and mediocre leader who was carried some distance by the media and activists because he checks the right boxes. He only took the Secretary of Transportation position as a payoff for getting out of the primary and supporting Biden. Expecting him to do any work or have any idea what he is talking about is a big ask. We should be honored he made an appearance. He's basically Biden if Biden was really lazy.

Static Ping said...

Ann, Maryland may be a battleground state for the Senate this year with Hogan running.

Gusty Winds said...

Think of all the ships that passed through without hitting either pier. The bridge was always vulnerable.

They don't make airplane runways wide enough for five airplanes. They are wide enough for one. The trick is to land on the runway. We are vulnerable on every single landing.

The boat was moving at 8.5 knots. That's 9.75mph. The ships weigh between 160,000 tons and 220,000 tons. Trick is to not hit the supports. Are there bridge supports designed to withstand that type of weight/force?

I understand WHAT happened, but at this point nobody knows HOW this happened.

JES said...

Please don't tell me anything Uncle Joe says. I just can't take it anymore.

Gusty Winds said...

We have Joe Biden the Mayor Pete in charge of gov't efforts to rebuild this important bridge and reopen the port.

Don't you wish they would assign it to Trump and Elon Musk???

Balfegor said...

And I refuse to accept that kind of vulnerability in our bridges.

The Dali was apparently something like 100,000 tonnes fully loaded. There's some crumple so that probably wouldn't be efficiently converted into force at the point of impact, but I would be genuinely surprised if a bridge could take a hit from something like that and survive. I think depending on how fast it's drifting, that could be the kinetic energy equivalent of getting hit by a cruise missile.
E.g. according to online calculators, 100kt at 30 km/hr ~ 3.5 gigajoules, or about 0.85 tonnes of TNT equivalent. The warhead of a tomahawk cruise missile is apparently 0.5 tonnes of TNT equivalent. The main preventative safeguards have to be on the front end, with training and equipment checks, the way it is with airliners.

But maybe we really do build our bridge supports like Flakt├╝rme. It would surprise me (modern US generally does not overengineer public infrastructure that way anymore), but I guess it's possible.

TaeJohnDo said...

Shipping companies are run by the decedents of Minoan, Greek, Roman sailors and traders, and they all are well dressed pirates. They invented the concept of Force majeure and have applied it for centuries to protect their wealth. And why would biden discuss getting the insurance companies to pay up promptly? I doubt that that even occurred to him or his puppet masters. Government is the solution to all of our ills. All others need not be considered.

rehajm said...

I think most of us feel that he's careless with our money.

Anyone notice they never use that infrastructure money for infrastructure? To the point- even if the above statement is valid, when Democrats hold a Republican House hostage under the threat of blaming them for all our problems…republicans capitulate. Apparently leftie blame is a fate worse than death. Anyways…anyone going to hold Democrats accountable for reckless spending when ____ is just too important?

Didn’t think so…

MountainMan said...

“but Maryland isn't a battle ground state.”

But Republican governor Larry Hogan is leading both Dem candidates in the polls for a seat in the Senate. That might have some influence.

retail lawyer said...

"It's an election year and Biden is trying to buy votes."

That doesn't explain it for me.

Well, Biden says things his staff is often trying to correct. I wonder if he discussed with his Transportation Secretary, who doesn't know anything about transportation, but is woke and gay and cute and ran for POTUS.

rehajm said...

Also- a free spending whoever runs Biden is the consequence of a post election America. Not to worry, it’s just about over…

typingtalker said...

These things happen from time to time for various reasons ...

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

The original Skyway was the site of two major maritime disasters over a four-month period, the second of which resulted in its partial destruction. The first incident was on the night of January 28, 1980, when the United States Coast Guard cutter Blackthorn collided with the tanker Capricorn in the western approach to the bridge, resulting in the sinking of the cutter with the loss of 23 crew members in the worst peacetime disaster in the history of the US Coast Guard. The second incident came on the morning of May 9, 1980, when the freighter MV Summit Venture collided with a support pier near the center of the bridge during a sudden squall, resulting in the catastrophic failure of the southbound roadway and the deaths of 35 people when several vehicles, including a Greyhound bus, plunged into Tampa Bay. Traffic was diverted onto the surviving two-lane span for several years until the replacement Skyway Bridge was completed, at which time the old bridge was partially demolished and converted into a long fishing pier. Owing to the incident, the current bridge incorporates numerous safety features to protect the structure from ship collisions, as it spans a narrow channel into one of the busiest shipping lanes in the United States.
(My bold)

Wikipedia

Michael said...

A USAF/commercial pilot friend of mine said the following with respect to aviation disasters - Rule 1:First reports are always wrong. The same most likely applies to maritime disasters. As to Buttigieg and Biden, if they were to listen to knowledgeable people before opening their mouths, it would be the first time.

The Vault Dweller said...

Despite all that insurance, Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."

I think the motivation is something like this. He says Federal Government will pay for the repair of the bridge. Republicans object and say hey why don't we let the insurance pay for it instead of putting the taxpayers on the hook. He responds by saying look at these terrible Republicans, they don't want the bridge to be fixed they want the people of Baltimore to suffer. This is because Baltimore has black residents. When a disaster, like a tornado strikes Iowa or Missouri Republicans are quick to pledge Federal resources. When a disaster strikes black folks in Baltimore they say screw'em. Republicans want to put you all back in chains. Even if you don't live in Baltimore, if you are black you can't trust Republicans. Vote for me and Democrats in November.

I think he is hoping that he can conflate opposing federal spending on repairing the bridge and instead relying on insurance payments with opposing repairing the bridge at all. One can argue that this bridge collapse only affects the people of Baltimore and Maryland, but one could have also argued that the death of George Floyd only affected the people of Minneapolis and Minnesota. There is a chance that black folks across the country could see an unwillingness to use federal funds to repair the Baltimore bridge as a marker of a general unwillingness of Republicans to help black folks at all. At least that might be want Biden and his advisors are hoping people will see it as.

Levi Starks said...

I think it’s amazing that none of that “shovel ready” money that Obama bragged about all those years ago didn’t buy a new bridge in such a vulnerable location.

Joe Smith said...

I brought up Biden's pledge to pay yesterday...inexplicable.

But Biden knows better because he often rode the train across that bridge on a rail line that never existed.

It seems that some sort of concrete barrier should have been placed around the supports...

Joe Smith said...

"I think most of us feel that he's careless with our money."

You think it's our money?

Democrats don't think so.

Tom T. said...

It's important to the Democrats to be seen throwing the federal government at this problem, to help the Democratic Senate candidate. Maryland is polling like it will elect a Republican senator this year. A squishy one, to be sure, but a Republican.

Compare this to Biden's response to the East Palestine train wreck, in a Republican state.

Joe Smith said...

The bridge will be rebuilt via a no-bid contract and it will go to the mayor's cousin.

That's how minority-run democrat cities roll...

Howard said...

Are we going off the terrorist hysteria now? Nice to see an invention of another hysterical angle to keep anxiety high and constant.

Welcome to the Machine

Wince said...

When has Biden ever done anything subject to a budget constraint?

Rich said...

“I think most of us feel that he's [Biden] careless with our money.“

Most Americans will be relieved to see the Army Corps of Engineers on the scene quickly to get the bridge rebuilt. It takes the federal government to do things like this, especially if the bridge was part of the Interstate highway system. Don't worry though: the container ship owner and their insurers aren't off the hook and will pay the government for what it costs.

Brian said...

Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."

It's easy why he said that. He needs to save the stock market or he will be citizen Biden on Election Day. By saying that he calms the insurance and re-insurance and the shipping markets. Otherwise it will take 10 years to resolve the lawsuits and another 7 years to build the bridge.

Congress can pay for the bridge and then figure out who to bill later.

The bridge was always vulnerable.

Lots of shit is vulnerable. You can't make everything safe. Redundancies are not possible. I saw someone on Twitter saying that every boat should have more than one propeller or propulsion device, but then they ignore that they all pull from the same fuel bunker. Or fuel source on land. I'll bet the new bridge will be vulnerable.

And if the bridge was only vulnerable because it was "a vessel of this size," then why weren't vessels of that size forbidden to pass under that bridge?

That's at least a $80 billion dollar hit to the economy of the eastern seaboard. But I guess if you live in Wisconsin you think it won't affect you. The global economy requires global trade. That requires large ships to move lots of goods.

And I refuse to accept that kind of vulnerability in our bridges.

If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. Physics be damned. There is no bridge that would survive that impact. A marine engineer on twitter calculated the impact as the same amount of force to lift Apollo 11 to the moon, all hitting in the space of a few feet. The only thing that would withstand that is "land" but land makes shitty bridges.

And before you say, "then dig a tunnel!", there are vulnerabilities with that, most notably you don't want to put hazardous materials into a tunnel.

The insurers must pay.

And if they can't pay? Maybe they'll just go out of business and stop payments on pensions and annuities, like your pension. That's why it's called an act of god.

Engineers who reviewed images of the bridge both before and after the collapse said no significant fender structures were visible....

No fenders would have stopped that ship. They would have rammed right through them. It took out a bridge you think you can devise fenders that are stronger than the bridge? Fenders are to avoid issues with smaller ships, but see above, large ships are needed to make trade happen. Even a fender that would deflect a ship that size wouldn't have saved the bridge, as the ship is bigger in length than the bridge width. Baltimore has a narrow channel. That ship drew 38ft underwater.

Probably safer to evacuate everyone from Baltimore and just nuke it from orbit.

PM said...

As for losing power the way it did - rust and scale are the principal cause of particulate contamination in fuels.

Leland said...

To help with scale of the MV Dali, imagine the Chrysler building moving at a walking pace.

Old and slow said...

Biden simply is not very bright and his first instinct is to spend money.

Jake said...

"Why isn't he saying he'll insist on the quick resolution of the insurance claims. Instead, he's saying he will spend our money."

Joe Biden isn't very smart. He's a lawyer in name only (Did he ever try a case or work as a practicing attorney? I'm too lazy to look it up. He has the demeanor of an ambulance chaser so his ignorance about insurance tracks I suppose).

traditionalguy said...

The cabal running the USA needs huge government construction projects so they get a Big Guy cut.

That’s one reason why Trump is hated because the big orange jerk Shows Off by getting construction projects done on time and under budget. A total wasted opportunity.

Gavin Newsome could teach Trump how to start a 3 billion dollar one year project and spend 22 billions over 12 years. Think of it as a high speed train.

JAORE said...

I wonder how much bridge engineering Pete Buttigieg knows.

He may not know them but the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has a BUNCH of structural engineers. Won't help if not asked.

I'm retired now, but was a licensed Professional Engineer with FHWA. Not structural, though I worked with many.

I've made a casual search to see what the fender system was around the piers. Haven't seen much to suggest they had a robust one.

jaydub said...

There are very likely multiple entities at least partially liable for the bridge collapse, including:

1) The ship. It is common and prudent practice to have a restricted maneuvering policy for entering or leaving port or operating in restricted waters. This may involve additional watch standers, special redundancy arrangement of critical machinery and electrical systems and certain restrictions on casualty control procedures. If the ship did not treat this evolution as a restricted maneuvering situation or have in place a proper watch bill or have defined what specific additional actions must be followed the ship must bear some responsibility. If the loss of electrical power evidenced by the electrical load being shed was the result of watch stander error the ship's training practices may have contributed. If there was a mechanical or electrical failure of some critical system (e.g., steering) improper maintenance may have contributed.
2) Bridge design. If there were no fenders or protective barriers around the bridge supports then the builder, state bridge inspectors, and responsible state agencies probably share some responsibility for the collapse.
3) The harbor pilot. Depending on his actions when the steering loss was first noticed one or two anchors may have been dropped early enough to have slowed the ship's forward momentum enough to prevent catastrophic damage. As it was it appears the ship hit the bridge pier bow on, and a timely anchor drop could have shifted the ship's heading enough to allow a glancing blow. Also, the pilot should have had a tug accompanying the ship and standing by until it was past the bridge and in the exit channel.

IOW, an admiralty court will have to be convened to sort out who did what and why and to assign shares of liability among the parties. However, it is very premature and foolish for Biden to accept ownership of this fiasco before a thorough investigation has been conducted. Pledging funds to get the repairs moving is entirely appropriate so long as it does not negatively impact the investigation, but accepting total responsibility for the rebuild is just irresponsible.



tim maguire said...

Not so much to buy votes as to set Republicans up to take the blame when the rebuild takes 15 years.

"I expect Congress to support my effort."

I find it interesting how the finger of blame is starting to point. Sure, the barge is the proximate cause, but if the bridge wasn't properly designed, well, whose fault is that? The government's, of course. Or so the insurer will argue in court when it resists paying up.

Dave Begley said...

Pete knows everything. He's even smarter than Hunter.

stlcdr said...

Well, didn't we (the feds) just pass an Infrastructure spending bill? Seems like some of that should have been spent on this vulnerable [venerable] bridge.

robother said...

They built a tunnel at the entrance to the Potomac, connecting the DelMarVa peninsula and the mainland (presumably for defense reasons), which I have been through on various birding trips. I assume it's a lot more expensive, but taking into account all the revenue lost due to closure of the Baltimore port for years, might pay for itself with one avoided disaster.

Dave Begley said...

BRK has a giant reinsurance division. I imagine that reinsurance premiums will go way up and Warren will cash in.

stlcdr said...

Build Back Better.

Maybe following through with that sentiment?

Rocco said...

BarrySanders20 said...
“Only large ships the size of small ships shall pass under this bridge.”

Only submarines can pass under the bridge right now.

Will Cate said...

"I wonder how much bridge engineering Pete Buttigieg knows."

He's probably a quick study, but... hither-to-fore? None, I'd guess.

Bill Harshaw said...

You need to read more. Other bridges have been taken out by ships, one in Florida killing 35 or so. That's led to changes in engineering standards for new bridges and retrofitting older bridges. I believe the Key Bridge was due for such modifications in 2025.

Federal money will cover the removal of the bridge and design and construction of the replacement ASAP, with insurance compensation down the line after the facts become known and are litigated through the courts. That's how insurance works.

Mark said...

Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost"

You're right. We shouldn't do anything, not draw up construction plans, not start building, not even clean up the debris, until the responsible parties pay every dime. We can just go without a bridge while people bitch and complain about who should pay for it. That will show them.

John said...

Ann Althouse said:

"It's an election year and Biden is trying to buy votes."

That doesn't explain it for me.


It could be that Larry Hogan, popular Republican former governor, is running for the Senate, and is leading in recent polls.

Bob Boyd said...

Joe's been a Washington politician so long that when a doctor taps his knee with a little rubber mallet he blurts out, "The federal government will pay for that."

Mr. O. Possum said...

A ship the size of the Empire State Building going 10 mph weighing a zillion tons hits a ‘thin’ metal support. Of course it’s going to collapse.

Michael E. Lopez said...

I'm gonna be pedantic for a second, so if you know a lot about insurance just ignore this comment.

$3B of reinsurance cover doesn't change the underlying liability limits -- reinsurance is just about spreading risk and making sure insurers can actually pay. If the combined policies for Maersk and the mgmt company and the ship owner don't have combined limits (including excess layers) sufficient to rebuild the bridge then the insurers ARE NOT going to pay for it. They'll dump their limits (which also have to go to the families of people killed) whatever those limits happen to be.

Some companies carry HUGE policies. Some companies mostly self-insure. Some companies have huge policies excess of gigantic retentions (think deductibles). The point is, there is a number on those policies somewhere -- the "Per occurrence" limit on the primary policies and the "Policy Limit" on the excess towers -- and that number limits what the insurers are going to pay. Ever.

It's *probably* a lot less than $3B.

But we can just about guarantee that rebuilding that bridge is gonna cost a lot more than $3B. 8000 feet of 4-lane interstate construction across open water?

HALF of the Bay Bridge in Oakland was like 6 billion. Yeah that's more lanes. But it was also shorter.

So one ought not think "But insurance will pay for this." It likely will splatter a few drops in the bucket. It depends on the policy limits.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Despite all that insurance, Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."

Because that's what politicians are supposed to do in the foggy mind of Joe Biden. Lie to the public and throw money at things. And don't think just because he's brain dead now that he didn't always think that way.

Kay said...

I think I had a similar reaction as you did here when i saw this article and its comments: https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexalisitza/baltimore-mayor-praised-online

Mason G said...

"This is a unique circumstance. I do not know of a bridge that has been constructed to withstand a direct impact from a vessel of this size," he told reporters....

From The Maritime Executive, How Container Ships Got so Big, and Why They're Causing Problems...

"The Ever Given can carry 20,000 containers, while so-called very large containerships can carry a maximum of just 9,000 containers. Using just one vessel instead of two to carry the same load saves fuel, significantly reduces the cost of transportation per container, and reduces the ship’s environmental footprint."

https://maritime-executive.com/editorials/op-ed-no-need-to-scrap-megamax-boxships-after-suez-canal-grounding

So there you have it- global warming caused the bridge failure.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

“Why isn't he saying he'll insist on the quick resolution of the insurance claims. Instead, he's saying he will spend our money.”

Why is it an either or? The feds can start the rebuilding now and collect the insurance money later. The way you get a quick resolution of insurance claims is by settling for less than you would otherwise get. Also, who’s to say the insurance will cover the entire cost of the rebuild?

Rob said...

Joe Biden (spending Other People's Money) picks up the tab for a bridge the way the rest of us pick up the tab for dinner: "I got it. This one's on me."

Rosalyn C. said...

That’s why Joe’s called “the big guy.” He’s always looking out for the little guy. He’s a little grandiose imo. That was my impression when I heard Biden‘s reaction.
Plus if the taxpayers are paying, then he or his associates can assign the contracts to the contractors of his choice (preferably family members) and he gets a little on the side? Isn’t that how government works?

walter said...

I blame Corn Pop!

Rabel said...

Althouse, that trump speech video on CSPAN at 6:30am yesterday is buggering up my viewing. Site goes directly to that post and demands I accept their cookies every time I refresh your page. If you can't fix I guess it will eventually roll on to page 2. Thanks.

Big Mike said...

Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."

Because he's stupid. I think he is expecting that the Republican Congress will turn him down, and he expects to make it a campaign issue. However the Republicans can turn around and point out that Biden got the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed just 2 1/2 years ago and surely that money has not all been spent yet. That will make the IIJA a campaign issue because the "40,000 projects" that the Biden administration touts must surely contain a lot of boondoggles and pork -- politicians cannot possibly help themselves and Democrats are the worst of the worst. A campaign message that Democrats insanely insist on battling inflation by throwing money at it will be the sort of succinct campaign message that could imperil candidates far down the ballot in November. In the end things will not go well for Biden or his administration or Democrats in general.

That doesn't explain it for me. ... Instead, he's saying he will spend our money. That might get him somewhere in Baltimore, but Maryland isn't a battle ground state.

Put another way, if Maryland is a battleground state in November then this election is over! The last time Maryland was a battleground state was in 1984 when Ron Reagan won it (you could look it up).

I think most of us feel that he's careless with our money.

@Althouse, you think?!?!?

Big Mike said...

And some of the engineers questioned whether the bridge’s piers had adequate blocking devices that are known with a self-explanatory name: fenders.

Perhaps the fenders were adequate for the shipping at the time the bridge was designed. Note that the Twin Towers in New York City were designed to be able to cope with the largest aircraft then in the skies colliding with one of them -- jets the size of Boeing 767s were not even on the drawing boards when the Twin Towers were designed.

Going along with my previous comment, one can in fairness ask why no one in the Department of Transportation thought to request some of the infrastructure money allocated in the IIJA to go towards beefing up the fenders on bridges over important shipping channels.

Joe Bar said...

When the bridge was built, marine engineers insisted a tunnel would be safer. It was cheaper to build the bridge.

Iman said...

“Baltimore Strong!”

Iman said...

If you believe that, I got a bridge to… oh… wait…

BUMBLE BEE said...

Why? Because.
The Biden administration was predicted in Blazing Saddles.
"I didn't get a harumph outta that guy"

MadTownGuy said...

Michael E. Lopez said...

"I'm gonna be pedantic for a second, so if you know a lot about insurance just ignore this comment.

$3B of reinsurance cover doesn't change the underlying liability limits -- reinsurance is just about spreading risk and making sure insurers can actually pay. If the combined policies for Maersk and the mgmt company and the ship owner don't have combined limits (including excess layers) sufficient to rebuild the bridge then the insurers ARE NOT going to pay for it. They'll dump their limits (which also have to go to the families of people killed) whatever those limits happen to be.
"

True enough, but if the parties involved are shown to be negligent, wouldn't there be a tort action after policy limits are exhausted? [Insert IANAL disclaimer here] I can't see the US Government agreeing to a settlement that involves a covenant not to sue. Rules may be different for claims of this type and magnitude, but I don't see the insureds getting off the hook.

Dave Begley said...

Report from dock worker that ship had electrical problems 48 hours before departure.

Mary Beth said...

Despite all that insurance, Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."

So he can blame Republican obstruction when they don't vote to fund the repairs without assurance that the insurance will pay the final bill. It's the "I expect Congress" that's the tip off.

Would insurance pay if there was a preventable, or known, mechanical problem that caused this?

Around Louisville, we have barges that break away and run into the bridges. I assume they are not as heavy as this ship, so the damage is usually minimal, if any. There were 10 that broke loose and hit a railroad bridge earlier this month.

boatbuilder said...

Giving Joe huge benefit of the doubt, one thing that the Constitution actually authorizes our bloated federal government to do is to maintain the highways. Which the government should do. Fix the bridge, and then collect from the liable parties and their insurers. Maybe stop spending on all the unauthorized crap to do it.

Not giving Joe the benefit of the doubt, and knowing Joe as I do, he was just trying to buy votes. With our money.

Why does Joe have no hesitation in saying this about the bridge, but he can't maintain the border (another Constitutionally authorized priority) because the Republicans won't give him more money?

Mikey NTH said...

I know this is shocking, but an interstate highway bridge may receive federal funding, and delaying reconstruction until all insurance claims are settled would delay rebuilding. Instead rebuilding can proceed and any insurance payouts can reimburse.

Dave64 said...

Of course President Biden said the Feds would pay for the rebuild. It's not their money, so they spend like no tomorrow. Plus look at all the ways these greedy bastards can line their pockets on a project this huge,

SteveWe said...

In an earlier posting by others: "Electricity is generated by two 3,840 kW (5,150 hp) and two 4,400 kW (5,900 hp) auxiliary diesel generators."

The two main generators are in the engine room. They power the main engine's lubricant and cooling water pumps. They also power the exhaust pumps and the intake air pumps. And they power the ship's main lighting and household systems (refrigeration, etc.). The rudder is controlled by hydraulics that are powered by an engine room generator. If there is no power, then the rudder cannot be controlled. Also, the rudder could have been stuck hard starboard which steered the Dali into the support pier.

Auxiliary generators are located behind the bridge and can, when running, power the bridge and secondary safety lighting. When the lights were off, Dali was blacked out. When the lights can back on, it was the auxiliary generators powering the bridge and safety lighting -- but still no power in the engine room.

They did restart the main propulsion engine without using whatever was left of the compressed air for the restart. After the restart, you can see a lot of black exhaust coming from the stack. That was because the engine room generators were not running so the propulsion engine was running without intake air pumps. They were in a run it until it breaks mode!https://www.youtube.com/watch?

gCaptain: https://gcaptain.com/ship-lost-control-before-hitting-baltimore-bridge/
youtube Chief MAKOi tour of engine room: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nikOvuY6GR8&ab_channel=ChiefMAKOi

Mikey NTH said...

And anchors are to keep stopped ships in place. Despite the movie Battleship they are not brakes.

Ships lose power. Last year the brand new Mark W. Barker lost power and grounded on the south side of Belle Isle in the Detroit River.

Rit said...

The structure’s apparent vulnerability left some engineers dumbfounded.

“This is a huge shock,” [said Shankar Nair, a structural engineer with over half a century of experience who is a member of the National Academy of Engineering]. “A bridge of that size and importance should not collapse when hit by an errant vessel.”...


That a so-called structural engineer could make such a statement leaves me dumbfounded. The fact that the bridge actually stopped that ship from continuing on downstream is actually a testament to its strength. That was a direct head-on hit by an enormous ship traveling a 8+ knots. Fenders might handle a glancing blow from a ship that size, but not a head-on hit.

Mr Wibble said...

They built a tunnel at the entrance to the Potomac, connecting the DelMarVa peninsula and the mainland (presumably for defense reasons), which I have been through on various birding trips. I assume it's a lot more expensive, but taking into account all the revenue lost due to closure of the Baltimore port for years, might pay for itself with one avoided disaster.

Tunnels are smaller, with other risks: you generally can't move hazardous materials through one, at least without a lot of prior approval beforehand and shutting down the tunnel during the process.

Gusty Winds said...

So...according to the NYTs, the bridge got in the way of the ship.

When my daughter was 17, and her grandfather bought her a car, I didn't think she was ready for. I told her not to drive the back roads and a snowy day. Of course she did.

Seriously. She called my crying and said, "A tree hit my car..."

Christopher B said...

I shared this link from Sal at "What's going on with shipping" last night. It's a pretty detailed overview of the events from the MV Dali leaving the dock in Baltimore to the bridge strike including both a real time marine map and CCTV video of the collision.

There were tugs maneuvering the MV Dali in the harbor basin but the bridge is quite a ways out in the Patapsco River channel, and the tugs were no longer in use. I'm not an expert but it seemed like by that point they wouldn't normally be needed, and Sal didn't note anything unusual about them ending service when they did.

Bridges are built to handle stress in the vertical, for obvious reasons. Horizontal stress, not so much. Other bridges in the Baltimore/Chesapeake Bay area have been retrofitted with collision fenders but the F Scott Key hadn't been.

phantommut said...

I'm interested in knowing how much time elapsed between the ship contacting local authorities about a possible and the collision itself. Did police forces have time to get to the bridge entrances to stop traffic? Were Emergency Services even notified that a disaster was a distinct possibility?

Josephbleau said...

"Tanks have reactive armor, skin that explodes when hit and vaporizes armor piercing shells before they pierce armor. There's an obvious application here in ship vaporization."

Humorous yes, but a simple system of sheet piling a 300x100 foot area around each pier, 100 foot wide and 300 foot 15 foot deep perpendicular to the bridge in the upstream tide direction and filling it with granite blocks would have created the effect of the vessel running aground. There would have been shearing of the ship frame at the sheet pile level and a great dissipation of energy. Running aground is the worst maritime thing. But the Bridge would have been left intact.

Yes, I am a registered Professional Engineer, among other things, but I am not responsible unless I stamp the blue prints. One of my jobs was running a marine port on Lake Huron back in the day, 2 Million tons per year. Did that for 5 years with no accidents.

typingtalker said...

You're driving along, and without warning, the roadway drops from beneath you. What's it like to survive a bridge collapse?
...
“I remember looking around and thinking that there was definitely something wrong,” Paul said. “I looked ahead and realized that the center section of the bridge was going down, and knew at that point that there was a good chance I would go down with it. And that is exactly what happened.”

What's it like to survive a bridge collapse?

FullMoon said...

Biden is a hole but bridge needs repair asap.

RNB said...

"I wonder how much bridge engineering Pete Buttigieg knows." He is intimately familiar with the Eiffel Tower.

Narayanan said...

I read something about 'Titanic Law"

legal experts said there is a path for reducing liability under an obscure 19th-century law once invoked by the owner of the Titanic to limit its payout for the 1912 sinking.

Narayanan said...

Joe Smith said...
The bridge will be rebuilt via a no-bid contract and it will go to the mayor's cousin.

That's how minority-run democrat cities roll...
==============
what if Trump convenes his buddies and put out design and construction estimate $ and time in next 3 months

after all I was convinced when he built skating rink for his deaughter for Christmas present

Mason G said...

"what if Trump convenes his buddies and put out design and construction estimate $ and time in next 3 months"

To be fair, that's not what the government would do. They'd be trying to figure how to direct the business to family and friends and how much they could skim off the top for themselves.

Butkus51 said...

When will people realize Biden is not in charge and never was?

When will people realize Biden needlessly lies every damn day?

Youd think by now rational people would realize this.

I'm wrong in assuming that.

What will that brilliant strategist do next?

Dont insult yourself.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

“The bridge was always vulnerable.”

From a 2018 study:

“In the period from 1960 to 2015, there have been 35 major bridge collapses worldwide due to ship or
barge collision with a total loss of life of 342 people.“

Narayanan said...

thanks JKBrown
What is an Allision?
By naylorlaw

The nautical definition of an allision is “the running of one ship upon another ship that is stationary.” The distinction between it and a ‘collision’ is that in the latter, both ships are moving.

Narayanan said...

3. Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line (15.1 km):
how Japanese have done it

Narayanan said...

World’s Longest Sea Bridges: The Magnificent 15

MacMacConnell said...

This bridge wasn't the original design. The original design was a tunnel under the waterbed. The ramps into the tunnel were built, then the state changed its mind. I believe I-95 and I-895 north of the downed I-695 bridge are both tunnels under the waterway.

DLH said...

Christopher B thank you, when the tugs guide the vessel out of the port they only accompany them out of the basin and into the south channel. I have never seen tugs all the way to the bridge in the last 7 years. They did radio for them after mayday but there is no way to catch them at that point.

Bunkypotatohead said...

If the feds get involved, every Congressman will demand a cut of the expenditure for their own district. Another boondoggle with most of the money going somewhere other than the bridge replacement.

How many days ago was they barely avoided a Gov't shutdown by blowing $1.2 trillion? That bridge would be replaced quicker and more cheaply if DC stays out of it.

Big Mike said...

I believe I-95 and I-895 north of the downed I-695 bridge are both tunnels under the waterway.

Correct, however you must have an E-ZPass so you can pay the tunnel tolls electronically to use them.

Big Mike said...

Most Americans will be relieved to see the Army Corps of Engineers on the scene quickly to get the bridge rebuilt. It takes the federal government to do things like this, especially if the bridge was part of the Interstate highway system.

Poor little Rich kid remembers a time when the Corps of Engineers (“Corpse,” if you’re an Obama fan) could actually build something and it wouldn’t fail. I would have thought that the New Orleans levees designed and built by the Corps of Engineers failing so badly in the wake of Katrina would have educated him. Apparently not so.

Leland said...

Here is a picture of the Fred Hartman Bridge. It spans across the start of the Houston Ship Channel, and if you look at the picture, that's an Exxon refinery on the land side of the bridge meaning larger tankers (like the one in the picture) pass under the bridge regularly. This bridge actually replaced a tunnel. Note that one tower support sits on a peninsula and the other on an island with a bit of a slope.

Here is a picture of I-10 over the San Jacinto River Bridge. Not sure which storm this was Harvey or Ike, but what you see happened in both. Inland flooding of the river caused barges moored nearby to rise well above the docks they were fastened and their mooring lines broke. Current then moved them to the bridge causing damage. Much smaller "fenders" can be seen that didn't really matter because of the forces involved.

I'm not necessarily trying to make a point. I'm just thought I would help the non-engineers here understand the type of problems in these designs and what it might actually take to protect a bridge like the Francis Scott Key. You can see more in the Narayanan link above showing other bridges. You can see other solutions, such as the Inchon Bridge or the Tokyo and Chesapeake bridges that have a main span tunnel. Other than the Hong Kong bridge, it seems many of the Chinese bridges have no protection around the support towers for something like this.

Rich said...

/Bruce Carnegie-Brown, chair of insurance giant Lloyd’s of London, told CNBC that the payout from the Baltimore bridge collapse and its knock-on effects could be “the largest-ever marine insured loss.”

He added that it would still be within the “realistic disaster scenario planning” of the insurance and reinsurance industry.

Morningstar DBRS analysts said in a Wednesday note that insured losses could total between $2 billion and $4 billion./ ~ CNBC

Rusty said...

Big Mike
The NTSB is going to have first crack at it. The ACOE is good a building dykes and levees but I think thay'll go with a profession bridge builder first. As soon a all the bodies are recovered there is going to be a salvage operation to clear the channel.

Narayanan said...

As soon a all the bodies are recovered there is going to be a salvage operation to clear the channel.
=========
why do these have to be sequential?

Rusty said...

They don't have to be. It's just the usual thing to do. It basically is showing respect for the dead. They might never find some of the bodies.
A lot will depend on the NTSB to see how soon they can beguin salvage.

SDaly said...

I've read that a lot of Coast Guard and Navy assets are now useless until the river is cleared of the bridge debris. This is in addition to the cargo issues. It doesn't seem particularly wise to place any bridge in that location if taking it out can strand our coastal defenses to such a degree.

Mason G said...

"It doesn't seem particularly wise to place any bridge in that location if taking it out can strand our coastal defenses to such a degree."

The government doesn't appear to be concerned about defense on our southern border, don't know why coastal defenses would be any different. Well... aside from places like Martha's Vineyard, I suppose.

Goju said...

Biden also said he rode the train across the bridge many, many times - even though there are no RR tracks across it.

Not to worry, Joe is going to put Hunter on this. If anyone can find a way to skim money for the big guy it's Hunter.

Narayanan said...

maybe it is time to write off Baltimore as martitime center, port, harbor etc.

Leland said...

Blogger Narayanan said...
"As soon a all the bodies are recovered there is going to be a salvage operation to clear the channel.
=========
why do these have to be sequential?"

Blogger Rusty responded...
"They don't have to be. It's just the usual thing to do. It basically is showing respect for the dead. They might never find some of the bodies.
A lot will depend on the NTSB to see how soon they can begin salvage."

I'll just add that planning for the salvage operation probably is concurrent, and nobody is going to just jump in the water and start cutting steel. First of all, they want to know what is in the water, which happens to be the same thing the recovery effort is attempting to do. It is actually quite convenient to let the recovery option gather that information for the salvage operation planning efforts.

McCackie said...

Iran has noticed.