It's on us. Share your news here.

Owner of ship Dali, which knocked down Baltimore bridge, hires federal lobbying firm Blank Rome Government Relations

Salvage crews work last week on removing debris from the Francis Scott Key Bridge from the container ship Dali, docked at Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore.

Posted on June 7, 2024

The owner of the container ship that struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, collapsing the bridge and killing six workers, has hired a firm to lobby in Washington regarding proposed changes to liability law, according to federal lobbying records.

Grace Ocean Private Ltd., the Singapore-based owner of the cargo vessel Dali, retained the services of Blank Rome Government Relations on May 2, according to the disclosure form.

Five Blank Rome staffers will “monitor and report on legislation pertaining to the bridge accident at the Port of Baltimore,” as well as lobby concerning “proposed changes to the Limitation on Liability Act of 1851,” the document said. The Dali’s owners invoked that law in court filings as they seek to limit their legal and financial liability for the March 26 bridge collapse.

Six members of a pothole-fixing crew on the bridge were killed and a seventh was injured. The wreck of the bridge and the damaged ship blocked full marine access to the Port of Baltimore for weeks; it is expected to fully reopen in the next several days.

Blank Rome Government Relations’ specialities include maritime law, government ethics, and congressional oversight and compliance, according to its website. It is a subsidiary of Blank Rome LLP, one of three firms Grace Ocean and its manager, Synergy Marine Group, retained to defend against litigation related to the bridge collapse.

“As a Singapore based company, Grace Ocean has engaged a well-known, USA based firm, to advise us on legislative matters,” said spokesperson Darrell Wilson via email. “Due to pending litigation and ongoing investigations, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

The National Transportation Safety Board, which released a preliminary report last month, is investigating what caused Dali to lose power, then strike and topple the bridge. The FBI has opened a criminal investigation.

Grace Ocean and its manager, Synergy Marine Group, referenced the Limitation on Liability Act in a April 1 petition asking the courts to limit the damages they pay to $43 million.

U.S. Rep. John Garimendi, a California Democrat, said during a congressional hearing last month that the liability law, which was designed to protect the maritime industry, “really has to change.”

The federal government has pledged to cover the full cost of the bridge cleanup, but said it will later try to recoup those costs from any responsible parties. The City of Baltimore and Baltimore County have hired attorneys to sue Grace Ocean and Synergy for their alleged roles in causing what may be the largest-ever maritime financial loss.

Three of the five lobbyists listed on the lobbying form have expertise in maritime law or ties to federal maritime agencies and lawmakers. Joan Bondareff is a former chief counsel for the U.S. Maritime Administration. David Jansen previously served as the staff director of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation subcommittee from 2011 to 2021. Another retained lobbyist, C.J. Zane, served as a longtime aide to the late U.S. Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican.

David S. Thompson and Stephen Penarich, a longtime chief of staff to former U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, are also listed.


It's on us. Share your news here.
Submit Your News Today

Join Our
Click to Subscribe