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2024年 7月 18日 木曜日

Engineer Says Baltimore Bridge Collapse ‘Unusual’: ‘Unconnected Bridge Decks Should Never Have Collapsed’

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Following the tragic incident that caused the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore, an engineer reveals that while the collision is substantial, a continuous through truss bridge like the Key Bridge is most unlikely to collapse making the situation “unusual.”

Sean Keyes, CEO of civil and structural engineering firm Sutcliffe, stated that the ship, typically weighing around 165,000 tons, hit the steel bridge abutment and caused the central structure to collapse.

“What’s unusual, however, is the extent of the collapse, which has been quite substantial, as the unconnected bridge decks should never have collapsed as well,” Keyes told the Daily Mail.

Ian Firth, a structural engineer and bridge designer, also weighed in on the situation.

“The support is a very, relatively flimsy structure when you look at it; it’s a kind of trestle structure with individual legs. So, the bridge has collapsed simply as a result of this very large impact force,” Firth told the BBC.

Andrew Barr, a research fellow at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Civil Engineering Blast, stated that given the impact of the ship towards the bridge, the bridge would have exceeded the design loads for the slender concrete piers that support the truss structure.

“Bridges in shipping lanes are sometimes designed with strong, stout piers or additional protective structures around the piers to prevent ships from coming into contact with the bridge structure. It doesn’t appear that the Key Bridge had either of these features, although it is also very likely that the size and design of the vessels passing under the bridge have changed considerably since it was completed in 1977,” Barr told the New Civil Engineer.

The incident follows a Singapore-registered ship named DALI that rammed into one of the Francis Scott Key Bridge’s main support pillars. The collapse has prompted a major search operation in the city for at least twenty people who fell into the water.

The bridge is vital for Baltimore as it is a significant road connector to roads leading up to major US cities up north like Philadelphia and New York.

“Never would you think that you would see, physically see, the Key Bridge tumble down like that. It looked like something out of an action movie,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott told AFP.

Following the incident, the state’s highway administration closed all traffic leading up to the bridge, encouraging motorists to detour.

Officials from the Baltimore Fire Department are aware of the scale of the incident, with Baltimore Fire Department Chief James Wallace stating that active search operations are underway and that sonar has detected the presence of vehicles near the incident area.

Synergy Marine Group, which operates the DALI shipping vessel, has also released a statement stating that all its crew members, comprising 22 Indian nationals, are accounted for. The ship was set to begin its 27-day sea journey to Colombo in Sri Lanka.

“Whilst the exact cause of the incident is yet to be determined, the ‘DALI’ has now mobilised its Qualified Individual Incident response service. The US Coast Guard and local officials have been notified, and the owners and managers are fully cooperating with Federal and State government agencies under an approved plan,” the company stated.

Moreover, Maersk, which has chartered the involved shipping vessel, has also stated that they are aware of the incident and are working with authorities. It is worth noting that the DALI vessel was carrying Maersk’s customer’s cargo.

“We are horrified by what has happened in Baltimore, and our thoughts are with those affected. We are closely following the investigations conducted by authorities and Synergy, and we will do our utmost to keep our customers informed,” Maersk stated.

Maryland’s Governor Wes Moore has also released a statement, placing Baltimore under a state of emergency and revealing that they will be working with an interagency team to deploy federal resources from the national government quickly.

“We are thankful for the brave men and women who are carrying out efforts to rescue those involved and pray for everyone’s safety. We will remain in close contact with federal, state, and local entities that are carrying out rescue efforts as we continue to assess and respond to this tragedy,” he stated.

Lars Jensen, founder of maritime services consultancy Vespucci Maritime, has warned that this incident will pose a massive problem for importers and exporters on the country’s East Coast, adding that until the incident is resolved, a large chunk of shipping vessels may be unable to get to any of the container terminals or other ports in the Baltimore area.

“This means the cargo already gated into the Baltimore terminals would have to either wait an unknown period for the sealane to reopen or be gated back out and shifted to a different port,” he said.


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