Large vessels carrying coal to Baltimore are still without a pier to offload their cargo nearly a month after a ship struck CSX Transportation Inc.’s deepest-water coal pier, closing it indefinitely.
But longshoremen who work near the Port of Baltimore’s private coal terminals said the transportation company has found “creative” ways to keep coal moving through its Curtis Bay facility.
The Bayside pier, struck on Aug. 25, normally handles “Capesize” coal vessels — large ships with 135,000-ton capacity that cannot traverse the Suez Canal, instead traveling around the African Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn to reach Asia.
CSX’s other coal pier, the B&O Railroad Pier, can only handle smaller Panamax vessels, which have capacity for just 77,000 tons. The B&O pier is 1½ meters — slightly less than 5 feet — shallower than the Bayside pier, preventing the larger ships from loading there.
In a statement, CSX said the large vessels are being loaded this month using methods decided on a “ship-by-ship basis,” with some being allowed to load at multiple terminals and others being loaded in the deep water near the Bayside pier, using barges equipped with loading arms.
But the pier damage has slowed operations at the coal facility, and no date for reopening has been selected.
“A timeline for repairs to the Bayside pier is being developed and will be communicated when available,” CSX said in a statement. Telephone messages requesting further comment were not returned by CSX.
Inchcape Shipping Services, a maritime service provider, said on its website that the Bayside pier could stay closed “three to four months.”
According to a complaint filed by CSX in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the Wawasan Ruby, owned by Panama-based Trio Happiness SA, struck the pier at about 12:41 p.m. Aug 25. The ship was headed to Bitumar Pier in Curtis Creek when it missed the channel on a turn and struck the coal pier.
At 5:15 a.m. Aug. 26, a CSX employee attempted to board the Wawasan Ruby as part of an investigation into the accident, but the ship did not allow the investigator to board.
Charles L. Simmons Jr. and David Mcl. Williams, both of Gorman & Williams PC, are representing CSX. Geoffrey S. Tobias of Ober|Kaler is representing the Wawasan Ruby and Trio Happiness. None could be reached for comment Friday.