City of Baltimore claims in court filing ship that hit bridge was ‘unseaworthy’ when it left port

In an aerial view, the cargo ship Dali sits in the water after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

(BALTIMORE) — The Dali, the container ship that left the Port of Baltimore in the early hours of March 26, before crashing into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, toppling a portion of it, set sail despite its “unseaworthy” conditions, according to a Monday court filing from the City of Baltimore.

In the court document, the city argues that the ship’s parent company, Grace Ocean Private Ltd., should be held liable for crashing into the Key Bridge. The filing was in response to Grace Ocean Private Ltd.’s request to limit their liability in damages they have to pay.

In previous filings, GOPL has argued that it shouldn’t be held liable for the crash that left six construction workers dead and a length of the bridge wiped out.

The owner of the Dali cargo ship filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month denying responsibility for the accident and seeking to limit the total payout to $43.7 million, a fraction of the billions the cleanup and bridge rebuild is expected to cost. The company is using a law from 1851, the Limitation of Liability Act from that year, in its quest to limit its liability.

The city said that 12 minutes after the Dali left port, despite warning signs, it crashed into the bridge.

“Reporting has indicated that, even before leaving port, alarms showing inconsistent power supply on the Dali had sounded,” a lawyer for the city of Baltimore said in the filing. “The Dali left port anyways despite its clearly unseaworthy condition.”

The city of Baltimore is arguing that for four decades, thousands of cargo ships have passed through the port of Baltimore without incident, making it one of the busiest ports in America.

The Dali’s “negligence” is grounds for the company to pay the city for the incident, the city argues.

“For all intents and purposes, Petitioner’s negligence caused them to destroy the Key Bridge, and single handedly destroy 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 city’s filing reads.

The company has yet to file a response to the allegations.

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