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Dali cargo ship crew are still stuck in the Baltimore Harbor. How are they doing?


It's been nearly a week since a cargo ship crashed into Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing a catastrophic and deadly collapse that killed six construction workers. And while cleanup efforts have since started on the Patapsco River, crew members of the cargo ship Dali, along with several other ships, remain stuck in the harbor. So how are they doing? To answer that question, we're joined now by Reverend Joshua Messick. He's executive director of the Baltimore International Seafarers' Center, a nonprofit that provides support to seafarers in Baltimore. Reverend, what have you heard from the crew members on the Dali, as well as the other ships?

JOSHUA MESSICK: Well, precious little from the crew of the Dali. I am in contact with them over WhatsApp, but their answers have been generally brief. I imagine they're trying to be very careful about how much information they provide, what they say and to whom. But all in all, the crew is healthy. They're being provided with everything they need, and they're assisting in the efforts with the Coast Guard and Customs Border Protection, the Army Corps of Engineers, everyone that's out there working right now.

MARTÍNEZ: Are they doing anything on the ship? Are they working at all?

MESSICK: Yes. They are still a functioning vessel, despite the damage they received, so the crew are keeping watch and are assisting actively with the efforts of recovery.

MARTÍNEZ: That's got to be so strange, to be on this ship with a bridge on it, with everything that's happened, and still trying to go about your daily workday.

MESSICK: Absolutely. Until the vessel is considered exceedingly unsafe for them to be on there, they will remain on and continue to do the work that they are - have signed on to do.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. What kind of support and resources do people on the ships need?

MESSICK: It depends on the ship. Each shipping agency and owner is different. Each crew is provided for in slightly different ways. So they all have adequate food. And my job is to make sure that that continues, that none of their rights as human beings or as seafarers are violated, that they continue to get all of the support they need. Right now, my primary focus is to supply emotional support, trauma care and transportation ashore for those seafarers who are able to leave.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And I was going to ask you about that because, I mean, specifically the crew members on the Dali, considering what happened and how things turned out, I mean, how have they been handling or trying to deal with this tragedy? I mean, are you concerned about their mental well-being?

MESSICK: I am very much concerned about that. They did not have Wi-Fi onboard until Saturday morning. I was able to get them two Wi-Fi hotspots, and I had mixed emotions about that because on the one hand, they really need to be able to connect to family and friends at home. But on the other, I'm anxious about the conspiracy theories and all of the things that are being said about them unfairly out there. So I'm glad that they're able to have Wi-Fi now. I just am anxious about what their emotional reaction will be.

MARTÍNEZ: Reverend, just a few seconds left. Any idea when they'll be able to get off the ship and what happens to those crew members after that?

MESSICK: No. A a lot of that depends on when they're able to get the ship free from the bridge and back to its berth. And then the crew's future is relatively uncertain. Hopefully, they'll be able to remain aboard and I'll be able to care for them as long as possible. They may be repatriated or otherwise.

MARTÍNEZ: Reverend Joshua Messick, executive director of the Baltimore International Seafarers' Center. Reverend, thanks.

MESSICK: Thank you, sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.