The Dali Crew Is in Limbo; With Wi-Fi, They Can Now See the World Outside the Port of Baltimore

The Dali is stuck at the Port of Baltimore after it crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/TNS)

BALTIMORE (The Baltimore Sun/TNS) — Over the weekend, the crew still onboard the Dali ship could finally see for themselves what everyone had been saying about them. 

On March 26, a 984-foot container ship en route to Sri Lanka struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge, sending it into the Patapsco River. Teams are working around the clock to clear out the debris the crash left behind.

Meanwhile, 21 crew members — 20 from India and one from Sri Lanka — have been on board the Dali, performing their ship duties as they answer questions from investigators looking to piece together how a tragedy that wiped out the lives of six construction workers and tore down an iconic piece of Baltimore life transpired. 

One of the crew members suffered minor injuries in the crash and was treated at an area facility before being transported back to the Dali, said Darrell Wilson, a spokesperson for Synergy Marine Group, the Singapore-based manager of the Dali. In the week since the initial incident, no crew members have reported additional injuries. 

“They’re in good shape. They’re being well looked after, well cared for,” Wilson said. 

Wilson said the vessel was stocked for a cross ocean voyage, leaving plenty of supplies and food for the crew while they wait.

Gov. Wes Moore said at a news conference Monday that crew members are still able to move around their living quarters and kitchen, which were not in the part of the ship “most deeply impacted by the wreckage.” 

On Saturday, a salvage ship delivered wi-fi hotspots to the crew of the Dali, who are facing an unclear timeline as to when they may be allowed to disembark. The Rev. Josh Messick is the executive director of the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center, which received eight hotspots from two faith-based support organizations for seafarers in Florida. Messick said two hotspots were brought to the Dali and the rest were delivered to the other seven ships stranded around the port. 

Messick said he also sent his contact information, 40 muffins baked by a homeroom mom who reached out to him, and a letter for the ship’s captain “expressing my gratitude for him and the crew, that they did everything that they could to prevent this and thanking them for their actions that saved so many countless lives because of how swiftly they reacted.” 

The crew then used their new internet hookup to message Messick and thank him. Messick said they haven’t asked for any additional supplies since. 

“Getting them internet allows them to be directly in touch with their loved ones and it helps them get to see what the rest of the world is saying about the situation,” Messick said. “The crew seems to be OK. They may not be in good spirits because of this — but who could be? — but they are being taken care of.” 

Messick plans to visit the crew himself once the National Transportation Safety Board wraps its investigation, bringing hygiene kits and chocolates from a Baltimore shop to lift their spirits. 

Jennifer Wockenfuss Waters, who runs Wockenfuss Candies, plans to donate chocolates to be distributed to the Dali and the other stranded ships in flavors like vanilla buttercream, peanut butter and marshmallow. 

“I don’t even know if I feel like I’m helping. But if it does bring a smile to anybody’s face for a moment, that certainly would be nice,” Wockenfuss Waters said.

Wilson said the crew members are “staying quite busy.” Messick said the crew are fulfilling their normal, 24-hour ship duties but are still entitled to leisure time as any seafarer would be. While Messick doesn’t know what the Dali crew is up to specifically, he said many crews enjoy playing basketball, which often leads to organizations like Messick’s having to replace the equipment that inevitably goes overboard. 

With the disruption to their routine, the crew is likely fighting against boredom. Drew DiZinno, a Texas lawyer specializing in maritime law who is joining the Coast Guard, has spent up to three months at a time at sea. DiZinno said that while time may feel like it’s moving slower than it does at sea, the crew is also likely used to entertaining themselves. 

“They can see land but they can’t quite go on it and that can be tedious at times,” DiZinno said. “As far as being bored, that’s an everyday challenge of being a mariner. If it’s not bored, then it’s usually some emergency, near panic or catastrophe.” 

Mentally, the crew may be plagued by thoughts of the road ahead. 

“They, I would imagine, are still anxious about their future because once everything’s wrapped up there, how things proceed depends on the stability of the ship, if they’ll be able to function on board in some way,” Messick said. “They may be repatriated, they may move to other vessels to finish out their contracts, but they don’t know yet. And I’m sure they’re probably worried about if there are maybe some legal ramifications.” 

Wilson said he doesn’t know if crew members have spoken to legal counsel yet but said if they need to in the future, Synergy will support them and “provide anything they need.” 

James Covington, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in Baltimore, said if the crew members’ visas expire while on the Dali, they can apply to have them extended. While they await an answer, they would be permitted to remain in the county, he said.

Wilson said that because the crew members are busy with ship duties and authorities, he was unable to interrupt that process and connect any of them with a reporter. He added that Synergy is in close contact with the crew and their families. The Embassy of India said it couldn’t share details regarding the crew and the Embassy of Sri Lanka did not return a request for comment.

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