Baltimore officials sue Dali ship owner and manager over deadly Key Bridge collapse

Attorneys for the city asked forspecific amount in damages

Michelle Del Rey
Tuesday 23 April 2024 17:23 BST
Coast Guard describes conditions on ship that crashed into Baltimore bridge

The city of Baltimore is suing the owner of the ship that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month, claiming that the vessel was “unseaworthy”, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday and obtained by The Independent.

The Dali hit the structure on 26 March 2024 after it lost power, sending at least seven construction workers into the Patapsco River below. Six of the men died, while one was saved from the waters.

Attorneys representing the Baltimore mayor and city council claim that the incident should not have happened and the crew on board the ship knew that the vessel’s power supply was down.

“Even before leaving port, alarms showing an inconsistent power supply on the Dali had sounded”, the suit states. “The Dali left port anyway, despite its clearly unseaworthy condition”.

Salvage work continues on the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.
Salvage work continues on the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. (AP)

The filing alleges that the alarms came from the ship’s refrigerated containers, showing that the vessel had been experiencing an inconsistent power supply that was not fixed.

The ship is owned by Grace Ocean Private Limited and managed by Synergy Marine Pte Ltd at the time of the incident. It had been chartered by Maersk and was on its way to Sri Lanka.

The Independent has emailed an attorney for Grace Ocean Private Limited for comment. Maersk is not named as a defendant in the suit.

Earlier this month, the companies filed a petition in the US District Court District of Maryland Northern Division seeking to limit their legal liability to $43.1m, citing a Titanic-era law that allows ship owners to limit their liability for certain claims to the value of the vessel and its cargo at the end of its journey.

The port of Baltimore supports at least 51,000 jobs, according to a 2023 economic impact study produced for the Maryland Port Administration.

Authorities estimate that the Port of Baltimore, which runs through the Fort McHenry Channel, may reopen to full capacity at the end of May. But the filing claims that it could take years for the area to fully recover.

The lawsuit did not include a specific monetary amount being sought, but the filing states that officials are seeking damages relating to the cost of replacing the bridge, clearing the Patapsco River, increased road traffic and management, and loss of taxes, among other expenses.

So far, the federal government has approved $60m in emergency funding. Maryland governor Wes Moore signed an executive order last month allocating an additional $60m to repair costs.

“For all intents and purposes, petitioners’ negligence caused them to destroy the Key Bridge and single handedly shut down the Port of Baltimore, a source of jobs, municipal revenue, and no small amount of pride for the City of Baltimore and its residents”, the claim states.

The attorneys are seeking a jury trial to determine a final amount of damages.

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