Container Ship DALI Hits Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland

by | Mar 26, 2024 | Maritime Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death

The container ship DALI struck the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, Maryland on March 25, 2024.  Following the impact, the 1.6 mile long bridge collapsed into Baltimore Harbor.  At the time, two local pilots were on board the vessel as it left the harbor en route to Colombo, Sri Lanka.  Numerous vehicles were on the bridge at the time, and search and rescue efforts remain underway.  Authorities are referring to the incident as a mass casualty event given the number of vehicles on the bridge when it collapsed.  Video footage of the incident shows the vessel’s lights going on and off multiple times, indicating there may have been a power failure or mechanical problem.  The vessel is chartered by Maersk, and owned by Singapore-based Grace Ocean PTE Ltd.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to those impacted by this deadly incident.

Under the stipulations set forth in 33 CFR 164.11, the accountability and control a ship’s captain holds over their vessel are undiminished, even in the presence of a harbor pilot. This regulation clarifies that the ultimate responsibility for the vessel’s safety and navigation remains with the captain, regardless of a pilot’s expertise or assistance onboard.  Despite a pilot being on board the DALI at the time of this tragic incident, according to federal regulations, the vessel is under the captain’s command at all times. This principle is central to ensuring maritime safety and operational effectiveness, highlighting the crucial role of the captain in overseeing all aspects of the vessel’s journey.

The regulation mandates that the captain is in charge of comprehensive vessel management, which encompasses navigation, adherence to safety protocols, and crew supervision. Despite a pilot’s contribution, particularly in providing localized knowledge and navigational aid, the captain is required to remain vigilant, overseeing the vessel’s path and ready to intervene as necessary. This dynamic underlines the cooperative relationship between the captain and the pilot, where the pilot’s recommendations should be valued yet do not diminish the captain’s supreme authority over the vessel. The clear delineation of responsibilities as per 33 CFR 164.11 ensures the captain’s pivotal position in guaranteeing maritime safety and the successful management of the ship’s operations.

Moreover, 33 CFR 164.11 accentuates the necessity for the captain to maintain alertness and preparedness to act, independent of the pilot’s presence. This includes the proper functioning of navigational tools, adherence to the vessel’s operational standards, and careful evaluation of any advice given by the pilot. This regulation underscores the non-transferable nature of the captain’s duties, promoting an active and hands-on approach to leadership at sea. It underscores the significance of the captain’s role in navigating not just the physical waters but also the complex responsibilities of maritime command, ensuring the vessel’s safe and efficient voyage under all circumstances

There have been a number of recent incidents involving vessels.  A fire broke out on the cargo vessel CUYAHOGA on March 15, 2024.  There was a deadly recreational boating accident in North Naples, Florida on March 15, 2024.  There was an amputation injury on a fishing boat off the coast of Sonoma, California on March 17, 2024.  Two crew members were killed in an incident on board the Holland America Cruise Ship Nieuw Amsterdam on March 22, 2024.  There was a fire on board the Carnival Cruise ship CARNIVAL FREEDOM on March 23, 2024.

It can be dangerous to work in any industry when safety considerations are not taken seriously.  Safe offshore vessel owners and operators must ensure that their ships do not put the lives of hard working men and women at risk.  Safe companies must be proactive and take preventative measures, including regular maintenance and repairs, to also ensure that the environment is not impacted.

Even when a company has practices and procedures in place to prevent incidents like this, mishaps such as the one described above are cannot be completely eliminated.  All too often, human error and negligence are the reasons for these vessel collisions.  Whether it is due to poor judgment, a normalization of deviance from the proper procedures or a lack of proper rest and recovery, humans err and sometimes these errors result in the property damage, injury or death.  Operating modern sea vessels is not an inherently unsafe act as long as those responsible do so in such a manner that is not negligent. When the operation of sea vessels is conducted in a negligent manner, it does not take long for the situation to become dangerous.

Our experienced lawyers handle maritime personal injury and wrongful death litigation of all kinds and the skills needed to represent the families of loved ones who have lost their lives or those who have been seriously injured as a result of a maritime accident. The lawyers of Spagnoletti Law Firm have handled maritime lawsuits throughout the country.

The experienced and aggressive vessel accident attorneys at Spagnoletti Law Firm can help you understand your rights if you or a loved one was a victim of an accident on a ship. There are strict and short time limits on making claims related to maritime injuries, so please contact us online or call 713-804-9306 or 877-678-5864 to learn more about your rights.