Baltimore bridge collapse: city claims ship was ‘unseaworthy’, had ‘incompetent crew’

Baltimore has sued owner and operator of the Dali container ship that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month

The city of Baltimore has sued the owner and operator of the Dali container ship that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month, saying it had “an incompetent crew” and set sail despite receiving warnings.

According to a court document filed on Monday, city officials say the ship’s parent company, Grace Ocean Private Ltd, and its operator, Synergy Marine Group, were “potentially criminally negligent” after causing the bridge to collapse on March 26th.

The incident killed six construction workers and disrupted shipping and traffic at the port of Baltimore.

The city says the collapse was caused by the owner’s “carelessness, negligence, gross negligence, and recklessness, and as a result of the unseaworthiness” of the ship.


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.

The lawsuit also alleges that the ship had “an incompetent crew” on-board who “failed to comply with local navigation customs”, and lacked proper skill and training.

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

The lawsuit asks for damages to pay for the replacement of the bridge, to cover the costs tied to the interruption in transportation and cleanup, and for the two companies to be held liable for the increased maintenance and expenditures of police and other public service workers, among other costs.

A federal court in Maryland is set to decide who was responsible and how much they should pay for the disaster caused by the 116,000-ton container ship.

The companies petitioned the US district court in Maryland to limit their liabilities a few days after the crash, requesting to cap costs at about $43.6m (€40m), but the mayor, Brandon Scott, and the Baltimore city council argued against any limit at all.

Last week the FBI opened a criminal investigation into whether any of the 22 crew members knew of serious problems with the Dali before attempting to leave port.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also conducting its own inquiry into the cause of the bridge collapse.

The Key Bridge collapsed on March 26th after the Singapore-flagged Dali lost power and collided with it.

Six workers originally from Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador who were making repairs on the bridge at the time of the crash were lost in the water and presumed killed.

US president Joe Biden called for the federal government to pay for the full cost of reconstructing the bridge and greenlit Maryland’s request of $60m to aid initial recovery efforts. – Guardian