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THE container ship Dali which rammed into Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge is likely to be re-floated this week, but it remains unclear when it will be able to make the two nautical mile (3.7km) journey to port.This follows a controlled demolition last Monday as authorities used small explosive charges to deliberately "cut" an expanse of the bridge lying on the ship's bow. As a controlled explosion rocked the Dali, twenty-one crew remained on board, below deck in the massive ship's hull, reports BBC News. The simultaneous blasts sent pieces of the bridge into the dark waters of Maryland's Patapsco River, seven weeks after its collapse left six people on the bridge dead and the Dali marooned.

Authorities - and the crew - hope that the demolition will mark the beginning of the end of a long process that has left the 21 men on board trapped and cut off from the world, thousands of miles from their homes. But for now, it remains unclear when they will be able to return home. The crew, made up of 20 Indians and a Sri Lankan national, has been unable to disembark because of visa restrictions, a lack of required shore passes and parallel ongoing investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and FBI.

Ahead of the controlled demolition, US Coast Guard Admiral Shannon Gilreath said that the crew would remain below deck with a fire crew at the ready. "They're part of the ship. They are necessary to keep the ship staffed and operational," Admiral Gilreath said. "They're the best responders on board the ship themselves."

Among those who have been in touch with the crew is Joshua Messick, executive director of the Baltimore International Seafarers' Centre, a non-profit organization that works to protect the rights of mariners. According to Mr Messick, the crew has been left largely without communication with the outside world for "a couple of weeks" after their mobile phones were confiscated by the FBI as part of the investigation. "They can't do any online banking. They can't pay their bills at home. They don't have any of their data or anyone's contact information, so they're really isolated right now," Mr Messick said. "They just can't reach out to the folks they need to, or even look at pictures of their children before they go to sleep. It's really a sad situation." The plight of the sailors also attracted the attention of the two unions representing them, the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union and the Singapore Organisation of Seamen.

In a joint statement on May 11, the unions said that "morale has understandably dipped", driven by "unfounded fear of personal criminal liability" and emotional distress. The statement also called for the "swift return" of the crews' phones, noting that losing communication with family members is "causing significant hardship for crew members with young children at home." Dave Heindel, the president of the Seafarers International Union, said that "however long the investigation takes, the crew's rights and welfare should not be infringed upon". For the time being, the crew has been given SIM cards and temporary mobile phones without data included, according to Mr Messick. They also received care packages from various community groups and private individuals, which in recent weeks have included batches of Indian snacks and handmade quilts. Mr Messick said he expects to be able to board the ship to provide "emotional support" as soon as it is moved out of the shipping channel.After that, he believes that small groups of sailors - perhaps five at a time - will be eligible for shore passes, albeit with heavy restrictions on their movements.

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