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US bridge closed after MSC container ship lost control at ‘full throttle’

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CHARLESTON : A major bridge in Charleston, South Carolina, was temporarily closed on Wednesday afternoon after a crew lost control of a large container ship after it left port.

The U.S. Coast Guard was alerted to an “out of control vessel” in the Cooper River around 12:17 p.m. Wednesday, Coast Guard Sector Charleston Deputy Commander Randy Preston said in a news conference Wednesday. Authorities rushed to clear boaters from the vessel’s path and shut down the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge before the ship passed underneath.

“The Ravenel Bridge is shut down in all directions due to a vessel reportedly losing propulsion,” the Charleston Police Department wrote in a post on X.

The incident comes just over two months after a 213-million-pound cargo vessel leaving the Port of Baltimore slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, collapsing the structure and killing six construction workers. The disaster sparked increased scrutiny of bridges across the US that could be at risk of collapse as infrastructure ages and cargo ships continue to grow in size.

Shortly before the ship in Charleston lost propulsion, it had been at nearly full throttle, Preston explained. Because of that, the ship proceeded with strong momentum.

“The pilot on board indicated the vessel lost ability to control the engines and they were stuck nearly full ahead with the vessel making between 14 to 17 knots,” Preston said.

The vessel passed safely under the bridge and didn’t hit any of the bridge’s supports. Eventually, the crew was able to regain control of the engines and anchored the vessel about 8.5 nautical miles offshore.

While Preston couldn’t explain how close the vessel came to the bridge, he noted that “any time a vessel can’t control its propulsion it’s concerning.” But, Preston added, “it turned out well and that’s due to our intense partnerships and coordination.”

The Ravenel Bridge, a two-and-a-half-mile-long bridge with a 1,546-foot cable-stayed main span, is a major artery connecting Charleston to Mount Pleasant.

Crews with the Coast Guard are headed to the ship to begin investigating the incident.

The vessel, MSC Michigan 7, is about 997 feet long and 74,000 gross tons and was headed to Savannah, Georgia, according to Preston. The vessel has been ordered to remain anchored until further notice.

Two recreational boaters in the area were pushed onto some rocks by the ship’s wake and sustained non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.

There were also reports of minor damage along the vessel’s route. Inspectors were conducting damage assessments throughout the port.

In addition to Charleston police temporarily closing the Ravenel Bridge to traffic and pedestrians around 12:41 p.m., the Fort Moultrie Beach was evacuated as a precaution in case the vessel needed to ground.

Local authorities can be heard on radio traffic discussing the incident and working on closure of the bridge.

“We just received a report of a large tanker vessel the MSC Michigan 7, currently outbound down the Cooper River, they’ve lost propulsion, and they are worried about potentially running into the Ravenal Bridge,” a man can be heard saying.

“You said they’ve lost propulsion, and they might hit the Ravenel?” a woman can be heard saying in response.

“Yes ma’am that is confirmed, we need the Ravenel Bridge shut down,” the man replied.

The bridge reopened once the vessel safely passed underneath, according to a news release from the US Coast Guard.

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