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Jun 11, 2024
Lockton P.L. Ferrari

Insurance considerations in the Francis Scott Key Bridge Incident

The European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) was extended to cover emissions from shipping as of 1st January 2024.

The EU ETS is limited by a 'cap' on the number of emission allowances. Within the cap, companies receive or buy emission allowances, which they can trade as needed. The cap decreases every year, ensuring that total emissions fall.

Each allowance gives the holder the right to emit:

  • One tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2), or;
  • The equivalent amount of other powerful greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide (N2O) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).
  • The price of one ton of CO2 allowance under the EU ETS has fluctuated between EUR 60 and almost EUR 100 in the past two years. The total cost of emissions will vary based on the cost of the allowance at the time of purchase, the vessel’s emissions profile and the total volume of voyages performed within the EU ETS area. The below is for illustration purposes:
  • ~A 30.000 GT passenger ship has total emissions of 20.000 tonnes in a reporting year, of which 9.000 are within the EU, 7.000 at berth within the EU and 4.000 are between the EU and an outside port. The average price of the allowance is EUR 75 per tonne. The total cost would be as follows:
  • ~~9.000 * EUR 75 = EUR 675.000
  • ~~7.000 * EUR 75 = EUR 525.000
  • ~~4.000 * EUR 75 * 50% = EUR 150.000
  • ~~Total = EUR 1.350.000 (of which 40% is payable in 2024)
  • For 2024, a 60% rebate is admitted to the vessels involved. However, this is reduced to 30% in 2025, before payment is due for 100% with effect from 2026.
  • Emissions reporting is done for each individual ship, where the ship submits their data to a verifier (such as a class society) which in turns allows the shipowner to issue a verified company emissions report. This report is then submitted to the administering authority, and it is this data that informs what emission allowances need to be surrendered to the authority.
  • The sanctions for non- compliance are severe, and in the case of a ship that has failed to comply with the monitoring and reporting obligations for two or more consecutive reporting periods, and where other enforcement measures have failed to ensure compliance, the competent authority of an EEA port of entry may issue an expulsion order. Where such a ship flies the flag of an EEA country and enters or is found in one of its ports, the country concerned will, after giving the opportunity to the company concerned to submit its observations, detain the ship until the company fulfils its monitoring and reporting obligations.
  • Per the EU’s Implementing Regulation, it is the Shipowner who remains ultimately responsible for complying with the EU ETS system.

There are a number of great resources on the regulatory and practical aspects of the system – none better than the EU’s own:

In the wake of the early morning collision on March 26, 2024, between the DALI containership and the Francis Scott Key Bridge, resulting in the bridge's collapse, the complexity of insurance coverage in maritime incidents has been brought to the forefront. The incident resulted in extensive property damage, loss of life, and a significant disruption of shipping and vehicular traffic in and around the Port of Baltimore.

With many losses yet to be quantified, a crucial question emerges: which losses are recoverable and from whom? Below is a summary of the marine insurance coverages potentially triggered by this tragic event, along with the implications of relevant U.S. maritime law principles for claimants, insurers, and reinsurers.


Insurance Coverage Analysis


Below is a summary of the key insurance coverages potentially involved in this incident.

Hull & Machinery (H&M)

(purchased by Owner of DALI; claim paid to same)

Physical Damage: Covers structural damage to the ship’s hull, with current repair estimates in the region of $28 million.

Salvage Costs: Covers expenses incurred in salvaging the vessel, currently estimated tobe in the region of $19 million.

General Average: May cover the ship’s proportion of general average, depending on the insurance policy terms.

Loss of Hire (LOH)

(purchased by Owner of DALI; claim paid to same)

•Compensates for loss of income due to the vessel being out of service.

•Reimbursement of pre-agreed daily lost revenue until the vessel returns to normal service,subject to a time element deductible.


Freight,Demurrage, and Defence (FD&D)

(purchased by owner of any vessel impacted bythe port/bridge closure; claim paid to same)

•Covers legal expenses incurred in defending or pursuing legal action relating to theport or bridge closure. Cover typically discretionary in nature.


Trade Disruption (TDI)

(purchased by owner of any vessel impacted by the port/bridge closure; claim paid to same)

•Compensation for losses due to trade disruption, subject to time element deductible.

•Reimburses for additional costs incurred to complete voyage(s) via alternative means.


Strike & Delay

(purchased by owner of any vessel impacted by port/bridge closure; claim paid to same)

•Coverage available for first-party losses from delay, such as loss of income if ship is delayed, supplementary to standard Loss of Hire and/or Trade Disruption.


Business Interruption (BI)

(purchased by marine and non-marine businesses impacted bythe incident; claim paid to same)

•Compensation for lost revenues resulting from port/bridge closure.

•Reimbursement of additional costs incurred to maintain operations.



(purchased by cargo owners impacted by incident; claim paid to same)

•Cover forloss, damage or spoilage of goods awaiting shipment or in transit which aredelayed due to the port closure.

•Supplemental coverage for additional expenses incurred, such as trans shipment costs.


Protection & Indemnity (P&I) (Third Party Liability Claims)

(Purchased by owner of DALI; claims paid to third parties)

•Personal injury and death related medical expenses, lost wages and other damages resulting from the incident.

•Pollution clean-up costs as well as mitigation / prevention expenses.

•Discretionary cover for fines and penalties levied by government authorities.

•Unrecoverable General Average contributions (Cargo, H&M etc.).

•Liabilities from damage or delayed delivery / non-delivery of cargo onboard the vessel.

•Damaged cargo on board other vessels.

•Delay claims from impacted third party vessels (stationary vessels awaiting transit) where there is a breach of duty of care and legal liability to indemnify for those losses.

•Lost revenue resulting from port closure (potential claimants include port authority and other government agencies, private port and terminal operators, vessel operators doing business in and around the port and local businesses whose revenue has been impacted as a result of the port closure). Under US law, however, a claimant must typically prove physical damage to property in order to recover lost revenue.

•Lost revenue resulting from closure of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, to potentially include bridge owner’s loss of use of the bridge and others whose business has been impacted by closure of the bridge, if the vessel owner is ultimately determined legally liable for lost revenue (i.e. claimants can demonstrate physical damage to property).

•Cost of demolition and repair/rebuilding of the Francis Scott Key bridge via cover for Fixed & Floating Objects (FFO).


Limitation of Liability and US Maritime Law Principles


The primary challenge in this incident is the potential third-party liability claims (covered by the DALI’s P&I insurer, Britannia P&I, a member of the International Group). Considering the whole universe of claims, including those brought by uninsured / underinsured parties and insurer subrogation, the current estimated value of damages is thought to be between $2 billion and $4 billion which, if this were to materialize, would result in the largest P&I claim in history.


Recovery for Economic Damages

Case Law: Robbins Dry Dock


At present there are 2 unknowns that will determine whether the DALI makes P&I history or not: first will be whether parties who have sustained purely economic losses(and their subrogated insurers), will be able to successfully recover those claims. Under existing US maritime law, the answer is likely no because of the Robbins Dry Dock rule established by the US Supreme Court in 1923. This case, and countless cases that have followed, have established a fundamental restraint on the recovery of economic losses in maritime law, emphasizing the need for a proprietary interest in the damaged property. This pivotal and long-established legal principle has shaped how economic damages are approached and recovered in US maritime law and would likely act as a bar to recovery for pure economic loss. As such, many of the business interruption claims arising out of this incident would not give rise to a legal liability for which theDALI (and their P&I insurer) would be called upon to pay.

Limitation of Liability

The second unknown that will shape the ultimate outcome of this matter as it winds its way through the US courts is whether the DALI’s owner can successfully limit their liability. On April 1, 2024, the DALI’s owners (and her manager) filed apetition in federal court in Maryland seeking to limit their liability by availing themselves of the protections afforded them by the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 - a long-established US federal law permitting the owner of a vessel involved in a marine casualty to cap their maximum liability for damages in cases of maritime accidents. This law was enacted primarily to encourage investment in the maritime industry by limiting the financial risks associated with ship ownership and allows a shipowner to limit their liability to the value of the vessel immediately following a casualty plus pending freight (i.e. compensation paid to the vessel owner for the carriage of cargo or other service performed for the respective voyage). This limitation applies regardless of the extent of the actual damages caused by the incident.

In the case of the DALI, the cap sought is approximately $44 million and if the DALI interests are successful, claimants to whom the shipowner is found liable would be paid their proportional share of that amount. Many of the claims outlined above –particularly the high value claims involving personal injury/death, general average/salvage costs, damage to the bridge and other recoverable economic losses - would be subject to such limitation.


In addition to potentially capping a vessel owner’s liability, the filing of a Limitationof Liability petition consolidates all claims in a single federal forum (i.e. a single multi-party lawsuit). Once all parties have appeared, the court will then move the case forward to determine whether the shipowner is entitled to limit their liability or whether the ship owner is responsible for the full value of all claims arising out of the incident. As noted above, the delta inthe DALI matter is astonishing given the limitation amount resting at $44million and potential liabilities topping out at approximately $4 billion.


The key question will be whether the Dali owners will be successful in their efforts tolimit their liability. The primary hurdle they will need to clear is proving the owner lacked “privity or knowledge” or the negligence or fault that caused the incident. In the context of US admiralty law, "privity” refers to alegal relationship or connection between parties – meaning the relationship between a shipowner and the person or entity responsible for the act or omission that caused the maritime incident.”. Knowledge” in this context refers to the shipowner's awareness or understanding of the circumstances that led to the incident. This can include knowledge of anyunsea worthy conditions of thevessel, negligence of the crew, or other factors contributing to the incident. For corporate shipowners, courts generally impute the privity or knowledge of high-ranking corporate officials onto a corporate shipowner, such as land-based executives, as well as the privity or knowledge of the master or the owner’s superintendent or managing agent, at or before the beginning of each voyage.


Despite our simple summary of privity or knowledge, this area of law is far from straightforward. US courts have struggled for literally centuries to apply the privity or knowledge standard, calling it “somewhat elusive” and “difficult toapply” in a consistent manner. As such, US courts will typically look at the specific facts of the case, including such factors as crew competency and efforts made by the owner and crew to remedy defects in the vessel that are discoverable through reasonable diligence. Navigational mistakes or other errors caused by an otherwise competent crew, or latent defects in the ship, typically are not deemed to be within the shipowner’s privity or knowledge. Even so, legal decisions in this area are far from consistent or predicable,with the trend in US courts toward holding shipowners seeking to limitliability to an extremely high standard.


At present,all reports indicate that the immediate cause of the incident was a power failure aboard the DALI moments before the allision. If that power failure were the only causal link in the chain, the limitation petition of the owner of the DALI would undoubtedly be successful. However, previous power failures noted by the NTSB in their preliminary report could complicate the owner's limitation petition, potentially unraveling their defense and leaving them and their insurer (Britannia P&I) liable for the full value of recoverable claims.



The outcome of the limitation petition and subsequent litigation will significantly impactall parties involved, including insurers, reinsurers, and claimants, potentially reshaping the landscape of maritime insurance and US admiralty law. Regardless of the ultimate determination, the legal process will undoubtedly drag on and thus the payout of third-party claims could take years.

The incident also underscores the importance of P&I insurance and the P&I Club group pooling and reinsurance system, which will be the focus of an upcoming Lockton PL Ferrari publication. The incident also highlights theimportance of proactive risk management and comprehensive insurance planning to mitigate risks from unforeseen maritime incidents.


Insurance considerations in the Francis Scott Key Bridge Incident
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