Baltimore claims Dali was ‘unseaworthy,’ accuses owners of negligence in bridge collapse

The city of Baltimore is arguing the owner and operator of the cargo ship that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge should not be able to avoid liability, claiming the vessel was “unseaworthy” when it left the Baltimore port last month, according to new court filings.

In a legal claim filed Monday, attorneys for the city of Baltimore say Grace Ocean Private, the owner of the container ship Dali, and the ship’s operator, Synergy Marine Group, were “grossly and potentially criminally negligent.”

“For more than four decades, cargo ships made thousands of trips every year under the Key Bridge without incident,” the attorneys wrote. “There was nothing about March 26, 2024, that should have changed that.”

Grace Ocean Private and Synergy Marine Group, however, “saw fit to put a clearly unseaworthy vessel into the water,” the attorneys wrote. “In no way should their liability be limited.”

The 984-foot cargo ship Dali was trying to leave the Baltimore Harbor on its way to Sri Lanka on March 26 when it lost power and crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River.

The ship issued a last-minute mayday call, allowing police to halt traffic moments before the crash, but eight individuals working on the bridge were unable to get off and were thrown into the water.

Two workers were rescued and survived, and the bodies of four victims have been recovered. Two more workers are still missing and are presumed dead.

City attorneys pointed to an Associated Press report from April 15 that found the container ship experienced apparent electrical problems hours before it left the port. The AP cited a person with knowledge of the situation.

“None of this should have happened. Reporting has indicated that, even 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 city’s attorneys wrote.

In the days following the collapse, Grace Ocean and Synergy asked a federal court to limit their legal liability to about $43.6 million.

The city is arguing this liability cannot be limited at this time without a trial, where the companies’ “failures” could be shown.

The vessel is valued at up to $90 million and was owed more than $1.1 million in income from the freight, per the filings. Attorneys noted repair costs will total about $28 million, along with at least $19.5 million for salvage expenses.

The Hill reached out to Synergy for further comment.

The FBI opened a criminal investigation into the crash earlier this month. It will focus on the circumstances leading up to the bridge’s collapse and whether federal laws were broken.

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