Company of Ship that Took Down Baltimore Key Bridge Responds, May Be Protected by 173-Year-Old ‘Titanic’ Law

Company of Ship that Took Down Baltimore Key Bridge Responds, May Be Protected by 173-Year-Old ‘Titanic’ Law

The owner of the container ship that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last week, causing it to collapse and killing six workers, and the ship’s management company, have filed a petition in federal court to limit their liability in the tragedy.

The U.K. Independent reported that the petition and appeal filed by Singapore-based Grace Ocean Private Limited and Hong Kong’s Synergy Marine Group are based on the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851.

This is the same U.S. law that protected the White Star Line, the owners of the Titanic, according to the Independent.

“After the ship sank in 1912, its owner, White Star Line, was served with hundreds of lawsuits totalling $16m in damages. Citing the 1851 law, the case ultimately made its way to the US Supreme Court. In the end, negotiations outside of court resulted in a settlement of $664,000 in July 1916,” the Independent reported.

According to a publication by the insurance firm JD Supra, the law limits a company’s liability in the case of a maritime disaster to the value of the vessel involved upon completion of the voyage if the company was not at fault through negligence or some other means.

The petition in the Baltimore case, filed in the Northern Division of the United States District Court of Maryland, claims the value of the Dali — the vessel involved — was no more than $90 million.

Repairs and salvage costs after the collision combine for about $47.5 million, according to the filing.

That puts the value of the vessel — and the companies’ liability — at $42.5 million, according to the filing.

It argues that neither the owner, the vessel nor onboard crew members were to blame for the incident.

“The Casualty was not due to any fault, neglect, or want of care on the part of Petitioners, the Vessel, or any persons or entities for whose acts Petitioners may be responsible,” the filing states.

It also aims to prevent any claims for damages from being made by potential claimants outside of a Baltimore district court setting.

“This is exactly what I was expecting would occur,” Martin Davies, an admiralty law professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, told the Independent.

PBS News Hour reported that rebuilding the Key Bridge could take several years and could cost anywhere between $400 million and $800 million.

The bridge’s collapse did not come as a surprise to everyone.

Last week, Ian Firth, a prominent British structural engineer with expertise in bridge design, told The Washington Post that it was the vessel’s angled approach to the Key Bridge, which bypassed structural defenses, led to its collapse.

Firth further suggested that if the ship had been traveling straight on into these protective barriers, then a collapse might have been less likely.

This event underscores longstanding concerns about American infrastructure vulnerabilities.

On Thursday, the Biden administration announced a $60 million “Quick Release” Emergency Relief fund as an initial down payment for Maryland’s costs related to the emergency repairs, design, and reconstruction of the bridge.

At a White House news briefing last week, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was asked if the administration would go after the shipping company to pay for the additional costs.

He responded, “Any private party that is found responsible and liable will be held accountable.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Key Bridge collision.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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