Baltimore: Ship's Owners Were Negligent, Need to Pay Up

City files court papers to hold Grace Ocean and Synergy Marine fully liable in bridge collapse
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 23, 2024 11:12 AM CDT
Baltimore Goes After Ship's Owners in Key Bridge Collapse
Salvage work continues on the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge on April 15 in Baltimore.   (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

The owner and manager of the massive container ship that took down the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month should be held fully liable for the deadly collapse, according to court papers filed Monday on behalf of Baltimore's mayor and City Council. The two companies filed a petition soon after the March 26 collapse asking a court to cap their liability under a pre-Civil War provision of an 1851 maritime law—a routine but important procedure for such cases, reports the AP. A federal court in Maryland will ultimately decide who's responsible and how much they owe in what could become one of the most expensive maritime disasters in history.

  • The companies involved: Singapore-based Grace Ocean Private Ltd. owns the Dali, the vessel that slammed into the bridge. Synergy Marine Pte Ltd., also based in Singapore, is the ship's manager. A rep had no comment.
  • The complaint: Attorneys for the city accused the companies of negligence, arguing they should've realized the Dali was unfit for its voyage and manned the ship with a competent crew, among other issues. "For more than four decades, cargo ships made thousands of trips every year under the Key Bridge without incident," the city's complaint reads. "There was nothing about March 26, 2024, that should have changed that."
  • Furthermore: "Petitioners' negligence caused them to destroy the Key Bridge, and singlehandedly 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 attorneys wrote.
  • Another wrinkle: Lawyers representing victims of the collapse and their families also have pledged to hold the companies accountable and oppose their request for limited liability.
  • That liability cap: Grace Ocean and Synergy want their liability capped at roughly $43.6 million. Their petition estimates that the vessel itself is valued at up to $90 million and was owed over $1.1 million in income from freight. The estimate also deducts two major expenses: at least $28 million in repair costs and at least $19.5 million in salvage costs. Grace Ocean also initiated a process requiring owners of the cargo to cover some of the salvage costs.
(More Baltimore bridge collapse stories.)

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