Baltimore Says Owner of Ship that Hit Key Bridge Was Negligent

The City of Baltimore has said that the owner and manager of the cargo ship that brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month are directly responsible for the accident and should not be allowed to avoid legal liability, according to court documents filed on Monday.

The 985-foot-long ship hit the bridge in the early hours of March 26 after leaving the Port of Baltimore and losing power to its engine and navigation equipment. The bridge collapsed moments later, killing six construction workers, forcing the port to close and disrupting the shipping industry up and down the East Coast.

A federal investigation into the accident could take years. In the meantime, the ship’s owner and operator, both based in Singapore, have asked a federal judge in Maryland to exonerate them from liability for any related losses or damages.

In early April, lawyers for the ship’s owner, Grace Ocean, and its manager, Synergy Marine, said in a court filing that the accident had not resulted from “any fault, neglect or want of care” on the companies’ part.

If Grace Ocean and Synergy Marine are eventually found liable, the total amount should be limited to about $43.7 million, the two companies argued. That is roughly equivalent to the value of the ship and its freight at the time of the accident, minus estimated salvage and repair costs, according to the companies.

Lawyers for Mayor Brandon M. Scott and the Baltimore City Council rejected the companies’ arguments on Monday, saying in a filing that the companies should be held liable for whatever damages can be awarded during a jury trial. The filing said the accident was a “direct and proximate” result of the Singaporean firms’ “carelessness, negligence, gross negligence, and recklessness, and as a result of the unseaworthiness of the vessel.”

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