Baltimore bridge collapse wasn't first major accident for giant container ship Dali

Propulsion failed on the cargo ship that struck the Francis Key Bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday as it was leaving port, causing it to collapse into the frigid Patapsco River. Its crew warned Maryland officials of a possible collision because they had lost control.

“The vessel notified MD Department of Transportation (MDOT) that they had lost control of the vessel” and a collision with the bridge “was possible,” according to an unclassified Department of Homeland Security report. “The vessel struck the bridge causing a complete collapse.”

An official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed to USA TODAY that the DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is working with federal, state, and local officials “to understand the potential impacts of this morning’s collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.”

Clay Diamond, executive director, American Pilots’ Association, told USA TODAY power issues are not unusual on cargo ships, which are so large they cannot easily course correct.

“It’s likely that virtually every pilot in the country has experienced a power loss of some kind (but) it generally is momentary,” Diamond said. “This was a complete blackout of all the power on the ship, so that’s unusual. Of course this happened at the worst possible location.”

The ship in Tuesday's crash, Dali, was involved in at least one prior accident when it collided with a shipping pier in Belgium.

That 2016 incident occurred as the Dali was leaving port in Antwerp and struck a loading pier made of stone, causing damage to the ship’s stern, according to, a site that tracks ships across the world. An investigation determined a mistake made by the ship’s master and pilot was to blame.

No one was injured in that crash, although the ship required repair and a full inspection before being returned to service. The pier – or berth – was also seriously damaged and had to be closed.

VesselFinder reports that the Dali was chartered by Maersk, the same company chartering it during the Baltimore harbor incident.

The 9-year-old container ship had passed previous inspections during its time at sea, but during one such inspection in June at the Port of San Antonio in Chile, officials discovered a deficiency with its "propulsion and auxiliary machinery (gauges, thermometers, etc)," according to the Tokyo MOU, an intergovernmental maritime authority in the Asia-Pacific region.

The report provided no other information about the deficiency except to note that it was not serious enough to remove the ship from service.

Follow here for live updates: Baltimore's Key Bridge collapses after ship strike; construction crew missing: Live Updates

Why did Dali crash into the Baltimore bridge?

Officials said Tuesday they’re investigating the collision, including whether systems on board lost electricity early Tuesday morning, which could be related to mechanical failure, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Accidents at sea, known as marine casualties, are not uncommon, the source told USA TODAY. However, “allisions,” in which a moving object strikes a stationary one with catastrophic results, are far less common. The investigation of the power loss aboard the Dali, a Singapore-flagged vessel, will be a high priority.

In a video posted to social media, lights on the Dali shut off, then turned back on, then shut off again before the ship struck a support pier on the bridge.

Numerous cargo and cruise ships have lost power over the years.

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea requires all international vessels to have two independent sources of electricity, both of which should be able to maintain the ship's seaworthiness on their own, according to a safety study about power failures on ships, citing the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.

The Dali's emergency generator was likely responsible for the lights coming back on after the initial blackout, Diamond said.

“There was still some steerage left when they initially lost power,” he said. “We’ve been told the ship never recovered propulsion. The emergency generator is a diesel itself – so if you light off the generator, that’s also going to put off a puff of exhaust.”

Under maritime law, all foreign flagged vessels must be piloted into state ports by a state licensed pilot so the Dali's pilot is licensed by Association of Maryland Pilots.

Diamond described the incident based on information from the Maryland agency that licensed the pilot aboard the ship. His organization represents that group and all other state piloting agencies in the US.

“The pilot was directing navigation of the ship as it happened,” he said. “He asked the captain to get the engines back online. They weren’t able to do that, so the pilot took all the action he could. He tried to steer, to keep the ship in the channel. He also dropped the ship’s anchor to slow the ship and guide the direction.

“Neither one was enough. The ship never did regain its engine power.”

How big is the Dali ship?

The Dali is a 984-foot container vessel built in 2015 by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea. With a cruising speed of about 22 knots – roughly 25 mph. It has traveled the world carrying goods from port to port.

The ship, constructed of high-strength steel, has one engine and one propeller, according to

The Dali arrived in Baltimore on Sunday from the Port of Norfolk in Virginia. Before that, it had been in New York and came through the Panama Canal.

It remains at the scene of the collapse as authorities investigate.

Who owns and operates the Dali?

It is owned by the Singapore-based Grace Ocean Pte Ltd but managed by Synergy Marine Group, also based in Singapore. It was carrying Maersk customers’ cargo, according to a statement from the shipping company.

“We are deeply concerned by this incident and are closely monitoring the situation,” Maersk said in the statement.

Synergy, which describes itself as a leading ship manager with more than 600 vessels under its guidance, issued a statement on its website acknowledging the incident and reporting no injuries among its crew and no pollution in the water. There were two pilots on board and 22 crew members in all, according to Synergy, all of them from India.

USA TODAY reached out to Synergy on Tuesday, but the company did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Contributing: Josh Susong

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dali ship that caused Baltimore bridge collapse was in prior accident