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Charleston Bridge Temporarily Closed as crew briefly loses control of container ship.

Charleston, South Carolina, when a large container ship went out of control, prompting the temporary closure of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge on Wednesday afternoon. The US Coast Guard received a report about the “out of control vessel” in the Cooper River at around 12:17 p.m., as stated by Coast Guard Sector Charleston Deputy Commander Randy Preston during a press conference.

The authorities swiftly responded, clearing boaters from the vessel’s path and shutting down the Ravenel Bridge to prevent any potential disaster. The Charleston Police Department announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the bridge was closed in all directions due to the vessel losing propulsion.

This incident comes in the wake of a tragic event just over two months prior when a 213-million-pound cargo vessel departing the Port of Baltimore collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge, resulting in the bridge’s collapse and the deaths of six construction workers. That disaster has since intensified scrutiny on the structural integrity of bridges across the United States, especially as cargo ships continue to increase in size.

Fortunately, in the Charleston incident, the container ship managed to pass safely under the Ravenel Bridge without striking any of its supports. According to Preston, the vessel, identified as MSC Michigan 7, was traveling at nearly full throttle when it lost propulsion, moving at a speed of 14 to 17 knots. The crew eventually regained control of the engines and anchored the ship approximately 8.5 nautical miles offshore.

Preston highlighted the gravity of the situation, noting that “any time a vessel can’t control its propulsion it’s concerning.” However, he praised the effective coordination and partnerships that ensured a safe outcome, adding, “it turned out well and that’s due to our intense partnerships and coordination.”

The Ravenel Bridge, with its impressive two-and-a-half-mile length and 1,546-foot cable-stayed main span, is a crucial connector between Charleston and Mount Pleasant. The temporary closure of such a vital artery underscores the potential risks posed by large vessels navigating near significant infrastructure.

Coast Guard crews begin a thorough investigation into the incident. The MSC Michigan 7, a vessel measuring about 997 feet in length and weighing 74,000 gross tons, was en route to Savannah, Georgia. It has been ordered to remain anchored until further notice.

As a precaution, local authorities also evacuated Fort Moultrie Beach in case the vessel needed to ground. The bridge was eventually reopened once it was confirmed that the ship had safely passed underneath. This incident serves as a reminder of the challenges and dangers that can arise in maritime operations, particularly as vessels continue to grow in size and the infrastructure ages.

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