Baltimore ship crew worried ‘what world thinks’ of them days after Key Bridge collapse

The crew members stranded for a week on board a cargo vessel that collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore were worried what the world thought of them, an official said.

The Singapore-flagged ship Dali, en route to the south Asian country, has been stuck with 4,000 containers and its mostly Indian crew since last Tuesday after the vessel lost power and collided with a support column of the bridge, leading to its collapse.

The 20 Indian and one Sri Lankan sailors were in good health, including a member who suffered minor injuries, according to officials.

The “rattled” sailors had adequate food on board but were keeping quiet about their situation amid an ongoing investigation, said Joshua Messick, the executive director of the non-profit Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center.

“They’re not saying much at all to anyone who has been in touch with them,” Mr Messick told the BBC.

“They didn’t have WiFi until Saturday and they didn’t really know what the perception of the rest of the world was. They weren’t sure if they were being blamed, or demonised. They just didn’t know what to expect.

“They are also in a very sensitive situation. What they can say can reflect on the company. I would imagine that they’ve been advised to keep a low-profile for the time being,” he added.

There has been very little information provided by the authorities on the condition of the crew members or their backgrounds.

The sailors have been praised for raising a mayday alarm moments before the crash, which allowed the authorities to stop cars from entering the bridge from both sides, saving countless lives. However, they also became the target of racist jokes on the internet, featuring in cartoons stereotyping Indians.

Wreckage from collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge rests on cargo ship Dali (Getty Images)
Wreckage from collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge rests on cargo ship Dali (Getty Images)

Authorities in the US said there was no immediate plan to disembark the crew members as workers raced against time to clean up the bridge’s debris from the Patapsco River.

The sailors would likely stay on board until the ongoing investigation was completed.

"The crew members were busy with their normal duties on the ship and assisting the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Coast Guard investigators," a spokesperson for Grace Ocean Pte Ltd, the owner of the vessel, told news agency PTI.

"At this time, we do not know how long the investigation process will take and until that process is complete, the crew will remain on board."

The Synergy Group, which manages the vessel, said in a statement that the NTSB – an independent US government investigative agency – boarded the vessel on Wednesday and collected documents, voyage data recorder extracts, and began interviewing the sailors as part of their investigation.

The Port of Baltimore opened a temporary channel on Monday, freeing some tugs and barges that had been trapped by the bridge collapse.