Ill-fated cargo ship Dali will be refloated and hauled from the bridge wreckage site Monday, officials say

(CNN) — As the sun rises on the Port of Baltimore Monday, the cargo ship Dali is set to be moved from the site of its catastrophic collision with the Francis Scott Key Bridge – a crucial step toward reopening the key port and reinvigorating the local shipping economy.

The painstaking relocation process was set to begin at high tide around 5:30 a.m. Monday, when crews were expected to refloat the vessel at its resting place in the Patapsco River and haul it to a nearby marine terminal, according to United Command.

Nearly eight weeks have passed since the Dali lost power, veered off course and slammed into the bridge in the early hours of March 26, killing six workers on the bridge and triggering the collapse of most of the hulking steel structure. The vessel’s removal is finally possible thanks to a series of controlled explosions that broke apart a massive piece of the bridge that has been pinning down the ship’s bow, officials said.

Crews began preparing the ship for its journey around midday on Sunday. Their tasks included dumping part or all of the 1.25 million gallons of water that had been held in the ship’s tanks to help stabilize it during salvage operations, according to a release from Unified Command.

Once the Dali is ready to be moved Monday, up to five tugboats will tow and push the ship about two and a half miles to the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore, the release said. It will take an estimated three hours to transport the 984-foot, 106,000-ton ship.

The removal of the Dali brings officials one massive step closer to reopening the Port of Baltimore, which has been incapacitated since the destruction of the bridge. The wreckage has clogged the major shipping channel for the sugar and automotive industries and crippled a major city thoroughfare. More than 30,000 commuters relied on the Key Bridge every day, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

Gov. Moore said Sunday he expects to have the channel reopened by the end of the month.

“I’m proud that we’re on track that by the end of May we’ll have that federal channel reopened,” Moore said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “And within days, we’re going to have that massive vessel, the Dali, out of that federal channel.”

Multiple investigations into the crash are underway, including by the FBI and US Coast Guard.

The National Transportation Safety Board has shared preliminary investigative findings that show the Dali had a pair of electrical failures minutes before the collision, as well as two blackouts while the ship was in port the day prior. One of the in-port blackouts was caused by a crew error, the report said.

The FBI and Coast Guard are looking into whether the crew failed to report the in-port power outage as part of a criminal investigation, according to a US official familiar with the matter.

Crew likely to remain confined onboard

The Dali’s 21-member crew has been confined to the ship since its crash and will likely have to remain there even once the vessel ship is successfully escorted back to port, the ship’s management company said.

There is no plan for what the crew – consisting of 20 Indians and one Sri Lankan – will do after the Dali is moved Monday, according to Barbara Shipley, mid-Atlantic labor representative for the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Their visas have all expired while they’ve been trapped and the union is waiting for direction from immigration authorities.

Crew members are trying to keep their spirits high despite being disconnected from loved ones, she said. The men have been without their cell phones for more than a month because the FBI confiscated the devices as part of their ongoing investigation.

“It’s important to get these gentlemen back home to their families,” Shipley said.

International maritime regulations require the ship has some staff onboard, but Shipley hopes officials will prioritize deciding which of the men can go home and which need to stay behind.

Though the seafarers have been stuck on board, they have not remained idle. They’ve been playing a critical role in maintaining the ship’s functioning and helping salvage crews navigate the boat, according to Darrell Wilson, spokesperson for Synergy Marine Group – the company that manages the Dali vessel.

Synergy has provided mental health services for the crew, who are also grappling with the deaths of the six men who were working on the bridge when it collapsed.

“It has been tough for the seafarers, primarily (because) they know that there’s been loss of life,” said Gwee Guo Duan, assistant general secretary of the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union, one of the unions representing crew members on the Singaporean-flagged ship.

“It is tough for them, being on board and having to look at the accident site every single day.”

CNN’s Zoe Sottile, Chris Boyette, Nicole Grether, Gloria Pazmino, Jillian Sykes and Holly Yan contributed to this report.

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