Baltimore sues owner of ‘unseaworthy’ ship behind bridge collapse

Baltimore Francis Scott Key Bridge shortly after collapse. Image courtesy of NTSB.

The city of Baltimore has sued the operator and owner of the container ship Dali, which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month, causing the four-lane bridge to collapse and killing six construction workers.

Baltimore claims in a federal lawsuit that the ship had “an incompetent crew” and set sail despite receiving warnings, according to court documents filed on Monday (22 April). The city claims Singapore-flagged Dali was “clearly unseaworthy” and is accusing the owners and managers of negligence.

The ship’s parent company, Grace Ocean Private Ltd, and its operator, Synergy Marine Group, have asked a court to limit their liability. The companies estimated their liability for the vessel and the cargo’s value at $43.6m, citing a pre-Civil War maritime law.

Attorneys representing the Baltimore mayor and city council argued that “none of this should have happened”, while the city has requested the US District Court of Maryland for a jury trial to hold the defendants fully liable.

Baltimore officials allege that, before leaving port, “alarms showing an inconsistent power supply on the Dali had sounded”.

“The Dali left port anyway, despite its clearly unseaworthy condition,” the documents allege.

In addition, the lawsuit also alleges that the ship had “an incompetent crew” onboard who “failed to comply with local navigation customs”, and lacked proper skill and training, as reported by the The Guardian.

The lawsuit accused the owner of supplying the vessel with “unseaworthy equipment, systems, and appurtenances”.

The lawsuit seeks damages to pay for the bridge replacement and to cover costs related to the cleanup operation, which is proving complex.

A Maryland federal court will decide who is to be held responsible for the incident and how much they should pay.

Baltimore Bridge Collapse_ An aerial view of the ship that hit the Key Bridge
Image courtesy of NTSB.

The four-lane bridge collapsed in the early hours of 26 March 2024 after the 116,000-ton Dali lost power and hit a column, causing huge spans of the 2.57 km bridge to fall into the Patapsco River moments afterwards. The accident caused the death of six men who were working on the bridge.

The region has been left reeling from the closure of its busiest maritime transit port, with global knock-on effects likely to last up to a year. Baltimore is the busiest US port for car shipments, with around 750,000 vehicles shipped in 2022, according to the Maryland Port Administration. The port also handles farm and construction machinery, sugar, gypsum and coal.

Temporary channels opened since the collapse currently allow around 15 per cent of pre-collapse commercial activity. A fourth channel, set to open at the end of the month, will see traffic levels return close to normal.

Insurance payouts for the collapse may be the largest in history, according to Lloyd’s of London chief executive John Neal.

Comments are closed.

This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

Skip to content