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Dali owners seek to limit damages payments

Grace Ocean, the owner of the 10,000 TEU ship that collided with Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key bridge, has filed a petition asking the courts to at least limit the company’s liability to the value of the vessel.

Lawyers from Duane Morris and Blank Rome, acting for Grace Ocean and ship manager Synergy Marine filed the petition with the Maryland District Court yesterday, claiming that the owner and ship manager are not responsible for the accident.

“The Casualty was not due to any fault, neglect, or want of care on the part of [the] Petitioners [Grace Ocean and Synergy Marine], the Vessel, or any persons or entities for whose acts Petitioners may be responsible,” read the filing.

However, the companies also asked, “If the Court determines that Owner and/or Synergy is liable, that such liability be limited to the value of the Vessel and its pending freight in connection with the voyage.”

According to the court documents, the value of the ship and its income from the shortened voyage amounted to US$43,670,000 - US$42,500,000 as the value of the ship and US$1,170,000 in pending freight for the vessel’s voyage.

“Petitioners are aware of potential demands or claims against them and/or the Vessel arising out of the Casualty. The identity of all such potential claimants and the amounts of their claims have not yet been fully determined,” read the petition.

Both the owner and manager claim “exoneration” for any or all the losses suffered as a result of the accident and “allege that they have valid defenses to any and all such claims”.
Vessel repairs have been estimated to be “at least US$28 million,” while salvage costs are estimated to be US$19.5 million.

Court documents also shed some light on the last minutes of Dali’s voyage, immediately before it came into contact with the bridge support that caused the 47-year-old bridge to collapse with the loss of six lives.

Dali left the Port of Baltimore accompanied by two tugs and with a pilot on board. Both tugs had cast off their lines by the time the vessel entered the shipping channel at around 1:08 am.

Some eight to 10 minutes later, the vessel lost power and propulsion and crew efforts to restore power were achieved for a short period before the vessel was again drifting powerless in mid-channel.

At this point, the vessel dropped anchor to prevent the vessel from drifting, but the ship hit one of the bridge supports at approximately 1:28 am.

Insurance cover had been renewed the vessel’s hull and machinery insurance just three days before the accident, and the policy had an insurance value of US$90 million.

Mary Ann Evans
Correspondent at Large

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