Key Bridge collapse: Dali was ‘unseaworthy’ before striking bridge, Baltimore officials say

BALTIMORE — Officials in Baltimore have filed suit against the owner and manager of the cargo ship Dali, saying it was in “unseaworthy condition” before it slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, causing the bridge to collapse into the Patapsco River.

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The 985-foot-long Dali hit the bridge just before 1:30 a.m., killing six construction workers who were filling potholes on the expanse. Officials said it was the first time in 40 years that the bridge was struck.

In a claim filed Monday in court, Baltimore City officials said Dali’s owner, Grace Ocean Private Limited, and its manager, Synergy Marine Pte Ltd, “saw fit to put a clearly unseaworthy vessel into the water” on March 26. They said the Singapore-based businesses “were grossly and potentially criminally negligent.”

“The impact of this disaster will be felt for years, and indeed, for the rest of the lives of the families of the people killed as a result of Petitioners’ conduct,” attorneys for Baltimore said in the claim. “None of this should have happened.”

Citing a report from The Associated Press, attorneys for Baltimore noted that hours before the Dali left Baltimore, alarms went off in the ship’s refrigerated containers due to an inconsistent power supply. They said it did not appear that the issue was investigated or fixed before the Dali unmoored from the Port of Baltimore around 12:45 a.m.

Just before the ship hit the bridge, alarms went off and the power shut off, officials said, pointing to a report from CBS News. The ship lost steering capabilities, leaving it drifting toward the bridge at seven knots.

Attorneys for Grace Ocean Private Limited and Synergy Marine said in an earlier court filing that the ship lost power around 1:15 a.m. Crew members tried to get power back but succeeded only briefly. They dropped the ship’s anchor to try to stop the vessel before it hit the bridge.

The companies said the collision “was not due to any fault, neglect, or want of care” on their part. On April 1, they asked a judge to limit their liability.

A spokesperson for the ship’s owners declined Monday to discuss the allegations made by the city.

“Just out of respect for the legal process, it would be inappropriate to comment,” Darrell Wilson told the Baltimore Sun.

Authorities continue to investigate the collision. The National Transportation Safety Board earlier told members of Congress that they were focused on electrical issues on the Dali, WJZ-TV reported.

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