Court Allows Dali Crew Change; Crew to Finally Return Home

A container ship crashing into a suspension bridge in Baltimore
Updated Published

After being confined on a ship amidst a media frenzy for months, the stressed crew of the Dali containership have finally been permitted to return home to Asia.

U.S. investigators had prohibited the workers on the vessel from disembarking since March 26, following the year's most high-profile shipping accident, which involved the destruction of Baltimore’s largest bridge and resulted in the deaths of six men.

An agreement reached in a Baltimore court yesterday allows the crew employed by Synergy Marine to return to India and Sri Lanka, provided they remain available for depositions.

The Dali is anticipated to be relocated from Baltimore to Norfolk, Virginia soon, where it will undergo extensive repairs. The legal cases surrounding the accident are expected to take years to resolve.

Grace Ocean, the owner of the Dali, and ship manager Synergy Marine filed a limitation of liability court petition on April 1, seeking to cap their liability at $43.6 million. However, the total payouts in this case are expected to reach billions of dollars.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which released a preliminary report last month, is investigating the cause of the Dali’s power loss and subsequent collision with the bridge. The FBI has also launched a criminal investigation.

According to the NTSB’s preliminary report, the vessel, chartered by Maersk, experienced electrical blackouts approximately 10 hours before departing from the Port of Baltimore and again shortly before colliding with the Francis Key Bridge.

The first power outage occurred when a crewmember inadvertently closed an exhaust damper during maintenance, causing one of the ship’s diesel engines to stall. Investigators reported that shortly after leaving Baltimore, the ship crashed into a bridge support column due to another power outage, as captured in video footage, which resulted in a loss of steering and propulsion.

The NTSB stated that the fatal outage occurred about four minutes before the crash when electrical breakers unexpectedly tripped, cutting power to all shipboard lighting and most equipment while the vessel was 1 km from the bridge.

The Dali crew managed to restore power, but another blackout occurred approximately 320 meters from the bridge, disabling all three steering pumps and rendering the rudder unusable.

Plans are underway to have a replacement bridge operational by 2028. Insurers have indicated that the Dali accident could result in one of the largest marine claims in history.