THE MAYOR of the City of Baltimore and the City Council have lodged legal action against Grace Ocean Pte Ltd and Synergy Marine Pte Ltd, owners and managers respectively of containership Dali.

Multiple US media outlets are reporting papers were filed in the US District Court of Maryland late yesterday (US time) alleging the Maersk-chartered, 9962 TEU Dali was “unseaworthy” when it left port for Sri Lanka and should never have sailed.

The bridge’s collapse was caused by “negligence of the vessel’s crew and shoreside management,” the city claimed in court documents filed by attorneys, and the owners and managers should be held “wholly liable” for the collision that caused the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and closure of the port.

Days after the fatal collapse – as a result of which six people died – the two filed a Court petition asking a judge to cap how much money they could be asked to pay in liabilities at about US$43.6 million. The petition estimates that the vessel itself is valued at up to $90 million and was owed over $1.1 million in income from freight. The estimate also deducts two major expenses: at least $28 million in repair costs and at least $19.5 million in salvage costs.

But attorneys for the city said in Monday’s filing that there should be no such cap, because liability cannot be limited if there is evidence of fault — an allegation they wrote could be proven at trial, the Washington Post reports.

The court filing cites an Associated Press report published 15 April, in which someone identified as a “person with knowledge of the situation” said that alarms on the Dali’s refrigerated containers sounded while the ship was docked in Baltimore. The filing did not detail other evidence to support the city’s claims.

Those alarms, the court filing claims, are indicative of an “inconsistent power supply” that was “not investigated or, if investigated, not fixed.”

“None of this should have happened,” attorneys wrote.

The economic impacts could be devastating for the Baltimore region, the filing says. “Petitioners’ negligence caused them to destroy the Key Bridge, and singlehandedly shut down 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 attorneys wrote.

“For more than four decades, cargo ships made thousands of trips every year under the Key Bridge without incident,” the city’s complaint reads. “There was nothing about 26 March, 2024 that should have changed that.”

Grace Ocean and Synergy, both based in Singapore, have declined to comment while litigation is in process.