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The first ship uses an alternate channel to bypass wreckage at the Baltimore Bridge collapse site

BALTIMORE (AP) — A tugboat pushing a fuel barge became the first ship to use an alternate channel to avoid the rubble of Baltimore’s collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which had blocked traffic along the key port’s main shipping channel.

The barge carrying jet fuel to the Defense Department left late Monday and was bound for Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. But officials said the temporary canal was open primarily to ships helping with the cleanup effort. Some barges and tugboats that have been stuck in Baltimore Harbor since the collapse are also expected to travel through the canal.

Officials said they are working on a second channel on the southwest side of the main channel that would allow for deeper-draft vessels, but did not say when it might open.

Gov. Wes Moore will visit one of two centers Tuesday that the Small business administration A relief organization has opened in the area to help businesses obtain loans to help them with losses caused by the interruption of the bridge collapse.

A hearing is scheduled Tuesday in Annapolis on a bill that would allow state reserves to be used to provide financial assistance to longshoremen unemployed because of the bridge collapse. Lawmakers are working to quickly pass the bill in the final week of their legislative session, which ends Monday.

Crews undertake the complicated work of removal Steel and concrete at the site where the bridge fatally collapsed after a container ship lost power and crashed into a support column. On Sunday, diving teams examined parts of the bridge and checked the ship, and workers in elevators used flashlights to cut off parts of the twisted steel structure above water.

Authorities believe six workers fell to their deaths in the collapse two, whose bodies were recovered last week. Two other workers survived.

Moore, a Democrat, said at a news conference Monday afternoon that his top priority was recovering the four remaining bodies and then reopening the shipping canals. He said he understood the urgency but the risks were significant. Crews described the collapsed bridge’s damaged steel beams as “chaotic debris,” he said.

“What we’re finding is that it’s more complicated than we originally hoped,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath.

Meanwhile, the ship is idle and its 21 crew members are on board for the time being, officials said.

President Joe Biden is expected to visit the collapse site on Friday to meet with state and local officials and learn about federal response efforts.

The Bridge fell when the cargo ship Dali lost power on March 26 shortly after leaving Baltimore en route to Sri Lanka. The ship issued a May alert, giving police just enough time to stop traffic, but not enough to rescue a road construction crew that was filling potholes on the bridge.

The Dali is managed by Synergy Marine Group and owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd., both of Singapore. The Danish shipping giant Maersk has chartered the Dali.

Synergy and Grace Ocean filed a court application On Monday, they sought to limit their legal liability, a routine but important procedure for cases tried under U.S. maritime law. A federal court in Maryland will ultimately decide who is responsible and how much they owe.

The motion seeks to limit the companies’ liability to about $43.6 million. The ship itself is estimated to be worth up to $90 million and was owed over $1.1 million in cargo revenue. The estimate also deducts two major expenses: at least $28 million in repair costs and at least $19.5 million in recovery costs.

Officials are trying to figure out how to rebuild the large bridge, which was completed in 1977. It carried Interstate 695 through southeast Baltimore and became a symbol of the city’s working-class roots maritime culture.

Congress is expected to consider relief packages to help people who lose their jobs or businesses due to unemployment the extended closure of the Port of Baltimore. The port handles more cars and farm equipment than any other facility in the United States.

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Associated Press journalists Brian Witte in Annapolis contributed to this report; Tassanee Vegpongsa in Baltimore; Sarah Brumfield in Washington; Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland; and Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho.

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