Ship Owner Seeks to Limit Liability in Catastrophic Key Bridge Collapse

In a controversial move, the companies linked to the cargo vessel that catastrophically struck and caused the collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge last week are actively pursuing legal measures to limit their liability. The Dali, managed by Synergy Marine Group and owned by Singapore-based Grace Ocean Private Ltd., has petitioned a court to exonerate them from or cap potential damages at $43.67 million.

This figure represents the claimed sound value of the vessel, approximately $90 million, minus estimated repair costs of $28 million and salvage expenses of $19.5 million. If granted by a judge, this would significantly restrict the owner’s financial obligations, potentially limiting total payouts to victims, families, and government entities to just $44 million, rather than facing claims potentially amounting to hundreds of millions.

The court filing asserts, “The casualty was not due to any fault, neglect or want of care on the part of (the) petitioners, the vessel or any persons or entities for whose acts petitioners may be responsible.”

The catastrophic incident on March 26 unfolded according to the following timeline based on data from the ship’s Voice Data Recorder and authorities:

Approx 12:39 a.m. – The Dali departed from the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore.

1:07 a.m. – Ship entered the Fort McHenry Channel
1:24 a.m. – Ship was underway at around 8 knots (9.2 mph)

1:24:59 a.m. – Numerous audible alarms on ship’s bridge, sensor data ceased recording

1:26:02 a.m. – VDR resumed recording sensor data, steering commands heard

1:26:39 a.m. – Pilot called for tug assistance, dispatcher alerted of blackout

1:27:04 a.m. – Pilot ordered anchor drop and more steering commands

1:27:25 a.m. – Pilot reported loss of power, approaching bridge

1:29 a.m. – Ship’s speed just under 7 knots, collision sounds heard

1:29:39 a.m. – Pilot reported bridge down to Coast Guard

Tragically, six construction workers engaged in maintenance were unable to evacuate the collapsing bridge – two survived, two bodies were recovered from a submerged truck, and four remain missing, presumed dead.

While recovery efforts continue, with crews working to remove debris, Baltimore City officials have firmly stated their intent to hold those responsible accountable. “The mayor and the city solicitor are determined to hold those responsible for this catastrophe for the damage they caused. The city is exploring all legal options.”

The incident has paralyzed the critical Port of Baltimore, one of the nation’s busiest shipping hubs handling over 52 million tons of cargo annually. Temporary channels have opened to allow essential vessel traffic during long-term restoration.

As investigations progress, scrutiny intensifies on the circumstances and the ship owner’s bid to limit liability through the 1851 Limitation Act – previously employed by Titanic’s owners. The National Transportation Safety Board will review the full recording to establish a detailed transcript.