Politics

Who Will Pay for the Baltimore Bridge Collapse?

On the day the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed, President Biden said the federal government would pay the “entire cost” of rebuilding it, which some suggest could run to more than $1 billion. Washington will foot the bill so the bridge and nearby port can reopen “as soon as humanly possible,” he said.

The hope is that much of the cost will be recouped from insurers, but determining who is ultimately on the hook for the deadly disaster is set to become one of the messiest and most expensive disputes of its kind. Rebuilding the bridge, repairing the cargo ship that hit it and compensating companies for the disruption at one of the nation’s busiest ports may take years to resolve.

“We’re not going to wait,” said Mr. Biden, who plans to visit Baltimore on Friday to survey the damage.

The legal wrangling began this week when the shipowner, Grace Ocean Private Ltd., and the ship manager, Synergy Marine, both based in Singapore, filed a petition in U.S. District Court to limit their liability to $43.7 million. They cited an 1851 law that allows a shipowner to cap financial damages mostly to the value of a ship after a crash, if the owner is determined not to have been at fault.

Claims against the ship’s owner and manager must be filed to the federal court in Baltimore by Sept. 24, a judge said.

Experts in maritime law and insurance said determining liability was particularly complex because of the many parties involved, from shipowners in Asia to insurers in Europe to companies around the world that move goods in and out of Baltimore. Numerous lawsuits are expected, and the six deaths caused by the disaster add a grim layer of complications.

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