BALTIMORE (NEWSnet/AP) — The first cargo ship passed through a newly opened deep-water channel in Baltimore on Thursday after being stuck in the harbor since the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed four weeks ago.

The Balsa 94, a bulk carrier sailing under a Panama flag, passed through the new 35-foot channel headed for St. John, Canada. The ship is expected to arrive in Canada on Monday.

Its voyage marked an important step in the ongoing cleanup and recovery effort as salvage crews have been working around the clock to clear thousands of tons of mangled steel and concrete from the entrance to Baltimore’s harbor.

The ship is one of five stranded vessels expected to pass through the new, temporary channel, including one loaded car carrier. Other ships are scheduled to enter the port, which normally processes more cars and farm equipment than any other in the country.

Pieces of the fallen bridge are still blocking other parts of the port’s main channel, which has a controlling depth of 50 feet, enough to accommodate some of the largest cargo and cruise ships. Officials have prioritized opening a temporary channel deep enough for large commercial vessels to pass through in hopes of easing the economic impacts of the collapse.

The Dali cargo ship that hit the bridge lost power and veered off course shortly after leaving the Port of Baltimore bound for Sri Lanka last month. Six members of a roadwork crew plunged to their deaths in the collapse. Four bodies have been recovered from the underwater wreckage while two remain missing.

The new channel will remain open until Monday or Tuesday. It will close again until roughly May 10 while crews work to remove steel from the Dali and refloat the ship, which will then be guided back into the port, officials said earlier this week.

The port’s main channel is set to reopen next month after the ship has been removed. That will essentially restore marine traffic to normal.

In a court filing Monday, Baltimore’s mayor and city council called for the Dali’s owner and manager to be held fully liable for the bridge collapse, which they said could be devastating for the regional economy. They said the port, which was established before the nation’s founding, has long been an economic driver for Baltimore and the surrounding area. 

In the meantime, both the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board are conducting probes to determine what caused the ship to lose power and strike the bridge.

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