Businesses affected by Baltimore Key Bridge collapse seek damages in court

A Baltimore publishing company has filed a class action claim arguing the owner and manager of the massive container ship that took down the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month should have to pay damages to businesses adversely impacted by the collapse.

The claim, filed on behalf of American Publishing LLC, largely echoes an earlier filing by attorneys for Baltimore’s mayor and city council that called for the ship’s owner and manager to be held fully liable for the deadly disaster.

Singapore-based Grace Ocean Private Ltd. owns the Dali, the vessel that veered off course and slammed into the bridge. Synergy Marine Pte Ltd., also based in Singapore, is the ship’s manager.

The companies filed a petition soon after the March 26 collapse asking a court to cap their liability under a pre-Civil War provision of an 1851 maritime law — a routine but important procedure for such cases. A federal court in Maryland will decide who’s responsible and how much they owe in what could become one of the most expensive maritime disasters in history.


New shipping channel allows first ship to leave Port of Baltimore

For the first time since a ship took down the Francis Scott Key Bridge, a cargo vessel safely sailed out of Baltimore on Thursday.

In their claim filed Thursday, attorneys for American Publishing accused the companies of negligence, arguing they should have realized the Dali was unfit for its voyage and staffed the ship with a competent crew, among other issues.

"Since the disastrous allision, commercial activities in and around Baltimore have virtually come to a standstill," they wrote. "It could take several years for the area to recover fully."

American Publishing saw its revenues plummet this month as local businesses halted advertising deals and other publishing requests following the collapse, the claim says.

A spokesperson for Synergy and Grace Ocean said Friday that it would be inappropriate to comment on the pending litigation at this time.

The ship was headed to Sri Lanka when it lost power shortly after leaving Baltimore and struck one of the bridge’s support columns, collapsing the span and sending six members of a roadwork crew plunging to their deaths.

FBI agents boarded the stalled ship last week amid a criminal investigation. A separate federal probe by the National Transportation Safety Board will include an inquiry into whether the ship experienced power issues before starting its voyage, officials have said. That investigation will focus generally on the Dali’s electrical system.

In their petition, Grace Ocean and Synergy sought to cap their liability at roughly $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.

Baltimore leaders and business owners argue the ship’s owner and manager should be held responsible for their role in the disaster, which halted most maritime traffic through the Port of Baltimore and disrupted an important East Coast trucking route.

Lawyers representing victims of the collapse and their families also have pledged to hold the companies accountable.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.