Owners of cargo ship behind Baltimore bridge collapse: don't blame us

After a ship slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge near Baltimore last week, the companies that own the vessel say they shouldn't be held liable.

Owners of cargo ship behind Baltimore bridge collapse: don't blame us
Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

Last week, a cargo ship temporarily lost power and spun out of control, causing it to slam into the Francis Scott Key Bridge near Baltimore. The bridge collapsed, sending two construction workers to their deaths. Two other construction workers were injured, and four others are currently unaccounted for and are presumed dead.

In addition to the tragic toll on human life, the collapse of the bridge has also spurred untold financial damages. Some estimates put the costs for rebuilding the bridge as high as $800 million and others project that insurance claims for the episode could soar to $4 billion. The federal government has, so far, doled out $60 million in emergency funds to help with the clean-up efforts, but the race is otherwise on to see who will pay for the gargantuan mess.

Well, there’s someone who definitely doesn’t want to pay for it—and that’s the companies that own and operate the ship that caused the bridge to collapse.

This week, Grace Ocean Private Limited and Synergy Marine PTE LTD, the two firms that own and operate the ship, issued a court filing to limit their liability in the matter. In their joint legal petition, the companies claim that the bridge collapse “was not due to any fault, neglect, or want of care on the part of Petitioners, the Vessel, or any persons or entities for whose acts Petitioners may be responsible.”

Naturally, in cases like this, it isn’t out of the question for people or companies to get sued. The companies in question are clearly trying to get ahead of that whole process and limit the degree to which that can happen. Their legal argument relates to a 19th-century maritime law that could allow them to limit the amount of liability to the value of the vessel that caused the accident. That vessel—the cargo ship Dali—is currently worth around $42,500,000, as of the “termination of the voyage,” the filing notes. The filing also estimates that the current projected costs for fixing and salvaging the ship are tens of millions of dollars.

The Associated Press notes that this kind of legal petition is actually a “routine but important procedure for cases litigated under U.S. maritime law” and is not uncommon when it comes to accidents like this. Still, it’ll be up to a court to decide whether to buy that argument or not. Given that there is a literal video of the ship slamming into the bridge, it would seem difficult to argue that no responsibility exists, but I am not a lawyer.

It was revealed last week that the Dali had previously been involved in another crash. The exact reason for the ship’s power failure has not yet been made clear at this time and investigators are currently looking into possible causes.

Source: Gizmodo