2 Cutters Stuck in Coast Guard Maintenace Yard After Key Bridge Collapse

April 9, 2024 4:01 PM - Updated: April 9, 2024 10:20 PM
Wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits on top of MV Dali on April 8. USNI News Photo

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Two Coast Guard cutters are stuck in the service’s Curtis Bay shipyard, with five others unable to get in for scheduled maintenance due to the Key Bridge collapse.

The Coast Guard shipyard in Curtis Bay, Md., is located off of Curtis Creek, a tributary of the Patapsco River, the river in which the shipping channel from Port of Baltimore flows. It is the service’s only maintenance shipyard.

At any given time, there are 11 to 13 ships at Curtis Bay, Capt. Thomas Lowry, chief of the Office of Engineering, told USNI News at the Sea Air Space 2024 symposium.

However, there are two cutters in the shipyard, as of Thursday, that were scheduled to depart in early April but cannot due to the Key Bridge collapse, Rear Adm. Amy Grable, assistant commandant for Engineering and Logistics, told USNI News.

Buoy tender USCGC Hickory (WLB-212) was set to depart on April 3 for its new homeport in Guam, Grable said. Automatic identification system information places the ship in Curtis Bay, as of Monday.

Medium endurance cutter USCGC Diligence (WMEC-616) was set to leave on April 5, Grable said. When she visited the yard on Thursday, the cutter was still there.

The 210-foot cutter can sail in 12 feet of water, and one of the temporary channels is 14 feet deep, Grable said. Grable referred USNI News to the unified command, set up by the Coast Guard to respond to the Key Bridge collapse, for a list of which ships had left Curtis Bay, as well as which ones had arrived.

The unified command told USNI News it could not provide ship location details.

In addition to the two cutters trying to leave Curtis Bay, there are five Coast Guard ships due for repair work in Curtis Bay between mid-April and mid-May that have been delayed, Grable said.

USCGC Forward (WMEC-911) is in its homeport in Portsmouth, Va., according to AIS information. Forward is 270 feet long, Grable said, adding that means it likely cannot get in through one of the temporary channels.

USCGC Diamondback (WPB-87370) is off the coast of Charleston, S.C., according to AIS.

Medium Endurance cutter USCGC Dependable (WMEC–626) is in Norfolk, Va., according to AIS. Dependable is 210 feet, which means it might be able to sail through one of the temporary channels to Curtis Bay.

Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Donald Horsley was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, three days ago, according to AIS.

Reliance-class medium endurance cutter USCGC Confidence (WMEC-619) was in Cape Canaveral, Fla., according to AIS.

Besides keeping ships in or out of Curtis Bay, the collapse is also affecting the personnel who work at the Coast Guard shipyard, Grable said during her talk at Sea Air Space.

The Coast Guard is still assessing the effects the channel closure will have overall on the service. But in the immediate, the backups on roads and poor quality of alternate roads are causing headaches for those who work at Curtis Bay, Grable said.

One person already had to get a front tire alignment because of the poor quality of the road they now have to take to the shipyard, she said.

While there is concern about accessing the shipyard from the water, getting there by land is a problem as well.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

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