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Dali passed inspections, says Singapore maritime authority

Container ship Dali passed overseas inspections and had valid certificates covering its structural integrity and equipment functionality, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MAS) has said.

“Dali’s next classification and statutory surveys are due in June 2024,” it announced late on Tuesday March 26th.

MAS also announced that its investigators and those from the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau were en route to Baltimore to assist US authorities.

The Singapore authority said that Dali’s management company Synergy Marine Pte Ltd had informed it that the vessel had “experienced momentary loss of propulsion” and was “unable to maintain the desired heading and collided with the Francis Scott Key bridge”.

The Singapore-flagged ship was “reported to have dropped its anchors as part of the vessel’s emergency procedures prior to its impact with the bridge,” MAS said, noting that “the vessel was under pilotage at the time of the incident.”

Divers have retrieved a data recorder from the ship. Officials said that they would examine whether what they called dirty fuel played a role in the ship’s power loss, although there appeared to be no external reason to suspect that this could have been the cause. Also, while dirty fuel can cause sudden blackouts of power, these tend not to happen only a few minutes after a vessel has left port.

The Dali container ship underwent two separate foreign port state inspections in June and September 2023, with the earlier examination resulting in the fixing of a “faulty monitor gauge for fuel pressure”, MAS said on Wednesday.

Equasis indicates that the Dali was cited by port state officials in San Antonio, Chile, on June 27th 2023 for a deficiency related to “propulsion and auxiliary machinery.” According to the report, the deficiency was described in detail as issues with “gauges, thermometers, etc”. There was no detention resulting from this single detected deficiency. Three months later the ship was subject to a follow-up inspection by the US Coast Guard in New York, but no deficiencies were recorded.

Minor deficiencies in vessels are not uncommon and are no indication of lack of seaworthiness.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will lead the investigation into the crash. NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said that the investigation would leverage on-board voice recorders and examine the vessel’s operating history, among other aspects. Homendy highlighted the cooperation with the Singaporean authorities.

The NTSB investigation will probably take a bit more than a year to complete, with public hearings scheduled sooner.

Yesterday’s press conference with Maryland Governor Wes Moore understandably continued to focus on the loss of life as a result of the accident. Six roadworkers from Central America were believed to have died in the incident. The search for their bodies would continue, Moore said. “We’ve got to give these families closure,” he said, noting that air, land and water resources have been devoted to the search of the victims. “My promise to them is this: I will devote every single resource to make sure that you receive closure.”