Investigators seek clues in Baltimore bridge collapse

2024-03-28 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

As investigators were reviewing the data recorder of the cargo ship that hit and caused the collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge, a lawmaker said Wednesday that if anyone is found liable, they will be pursued to add funds to the cost for rebuilding the bridge.

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will release federal funds for rebuilding efforts of the collapsed bridge.

The investigation into the crash of the cargo ship Dali into the bridge early Tuesday could take up to two years, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said Wednesday.

"We have an amazing team of individuals who are focused on very specific areas of expertise, and so I have no doubt that we will be able to pull this together in hopefully 12 to 24 months," she said at a news conference.

There is no cost estimate for rebuilding the bridge or the economic impact. But the eventual cost — including compensating the victims' families and paying out damages for disruptions to the supply chain — is expected to be significant.

The bridge was built in the 1970s for about $60 million, but the cost of rebuilding it could be $600 million, an engineering expert told Sky News.

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that the federal government would pay to reconstruct the bridge.

"It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort," Biden said.

But the majority of the financial fallout is likely to rest primarily with the insurance industry, according to media reports.

Industry experts told the Financial Times that insurers could pay out losses for bridge damage, port disruption and any loss of life.

The bridge collapse could drive "one of the largest claims ever to hit the marine (re)insurance market", John Miklus, president of the American Institute of Marine Underwriters, told Insurance Business.

The Dali is covered by the Britannia Steam Ship Insurance Association Ltd, known as Britannia P&I Club, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Britannia itself is liable for the first $10 million in damages, both the FT and Insurance Business reported. Whatever remains is dealt with by the wider mutual insurance group and Lloyd's of London, a reinsurance market in the UK, according to the FT.

Insurance industry experts told The New York Times on Wednesday that Grace Ocean Private Ltd, the Singaporean company that owns the ship, could face the highest cost ever for a maritime incident.

Miklus said the bill has the potential to exceed the roughly $1.5 billion that was paid out following the Costa Concordia crisis in 2012, when 32 people were killed as the ship ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio.

On Wednesday, divers recovered the remains of two people from a red pickup truck submerged in the Patapsco River, officials said, nearly 35 hours after a container ship crashed into the bridge, which crumpled into the water.

Sonar has indicated that there are more vehicles near the underwater rubble, authorities said during a news conference Wednesday evening.

At least six people, part of a construction crew that was repairing potholes and masonry on the bridge, are presumed dead. Two other workers were rescued.

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