A Singaporean company that owns the container ship that struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge moved on Monday to limit its liability in the disaster, which sent the 47-year-old structure into the Patapsco River and cut off most docks in the Port of Baltimore from the global shipping industry.

Grace Ocean Private, the owner of the Dali, and Synergy Marine Group, the manager of the ship, filed a petition for exoneration from or limitation of liability in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

“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 document states. “Alternatively, if any such faults caused or contributed to the Casualty, or to any loss or damage arising out of the Casualty, which is denied, such faults were occasioned and occurred without Petitioners’ privity or knowledge.”

On Tuesday, the Dali, a 984-foot-long cargo ship that contained about 4,700 stacked shipping containers, was headed to Colombo, Sri Lanka, when it hit one the main support piers of the bridge. Seconds later, it collapsed. Six construction workers filling potholes on the bridge were killed.

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“This is obviously an extraordinary set of circumstances,” said Martin Davies, Admiralty Law Institute professor of maritime law and director of the Maritime Law Center at Tulane University. “But in many respects, it’s not.”

“There are these horrible high-profile cases,” he added. “But the structure of the litigation that follows is pretty much always the same.”

The Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 allows ship owners to try to limit their liability to the value of the vessel and its freight at the end of the voyage, which the ship owner reported is $43.67 million.

The Oceanic Steam Navigation Co., the parent company of the White Star Line, successfully raised that protection after the Titanic sunk in 1912 in a case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The owner faced hundreds of lawsuits seeking more than $16 million in damages, but reached a total settlement of $664,000, according to the Library of Congress.

The Daily Record first reported on the filing.

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Alexander Giles, a partner at Tydings & Rosenberg LLP in Baltimore who specializes in maritime law, said these cases involve a two-step process.

First, Giles said, those who oppose limiting the liability must show that there’s some fault or neglect that’s the responsibility of the ship owner. If they’re successful, the burden shifts to the ship owner to demonstrate that it did not have what’s called “privity or knowledge” of any issues.

Giles said ship owners who prevail can limit their liability to the value of the vessel and its freight at the end of the voyage.

Because the case involves personal injury and death, though, it must set aside money for those claims, Giles said. That’s $420 per gross ton of the ship, which works out to approximately $39.95 million.

If the ship owner is not successful in limiting its liability, Giles said, attorneys will be able to bring claims in whatever court they can establish jurisdiction.

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U.S. District Chief Judge James K. Bredar is assigned to the case.

Grace Ocean Private and Synergy Marine Group have asked him to sign an order preventing any lawsuits from being filed outside the court proceedings. They’ve also proposed a deadline of Sept. 24 for the submission of claims in the case.

Daniel Rose, a partner at Kreindler LLP in New York whose focus is on aviation, maritime and products liability accident litigation and represents the families of victims, said ship owners raise the law in these cases.

Rose questioned why the act remains in place and noted that the global shipping industry is fully developed.

“It makes no sense,” Rose said. “But the shippers have a strong lobby, and the act remains.”

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