Fact Check: Captain Of Ship That Hit Francis Scott Key Bridge In Baltimore Was NOT Ukrainian

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Captain Of Ship That Hit Francis Scott Key Bridge In Baltimore Was NOT Ukrainian Indian Crew

Was the captain of the Dali cargo vessel that hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on March 24, 2024, Ukrainian? No, that's not true: A representative of the company operating the ship confirmed to Lead Stories that all 22 crew members on board were Indian nationals. The claim about the Ukrainian captain purportedly being in charge of Dali at the time of the collision originated from Russian propaganda resources.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook published by Voice of Europe on March 26, 2024. The caption opened:

The captain of the ship that collapsed the bridge in Baltimore may be a citizen of Ukraine 👇🏻

This is what it looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2024-03-27 at 10.12.34 AM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Mar 27 14:12:27 2024 UTC)

The crew

On March 27, 2024, Synergy Marine Group, the ship's manager (archived here) at the time of the incident, issued a statement (archived here). Among other things, it refuted the rumors that there were any Ukrainians on board:

Screen Shot 2024-03-27 at 12.07.07 PM.png

(Source: Synergy Marine Group screenshot taken on Wed Mar 27 16:07:07 2024 UTC)

The company's representative, Darrell Wilson, additionally confirmed that to Lead Stories over the phone on March 27, 2024.

As of this writing, the website of the Embassy of India in the U.S. (archived here) showed a pop-up window with the hotline number for the families of the crew members:

Screen Shot 2024-03-27 at 10.10.55 AM.png

(Source: Indian Embassy USA screenshot taken on Wed Mar 27 14:10:55 2024 UTC)

The captain

The post contained a link to a Voice of Europe article (archived here). It stated that the captain was "presumed to be a citizen of Ukraine" because of the information "contained in the ship's card on the Balticshipping portal."

But balticshipping.com is not a government resource, trade group or credible independent database. According to the About section (archived here), Baltics Shipping describes itself as a job-finding portal for the people involved in the maritime industry.

As of this writing, the website (archived here) showed a single record (archived here) detailing the make-up of the Dali crews, and that man was not a Ukrainian citizen or a captain of any vessel:

Screen Shot 2024-03-27 at 10.52.34 AM.png

(Source: Baltics Shipping screenshot taken on Wed Mar 27 14:52:34 2024 UTC)

An archived version of the page saved on March 26, 2024, however, showed two entries for Dali. The second was a Ukrainian man from the Voice of Europe article.

Although the Sea Service section detailing his work history was unavailable on the saved version of the page, one user in the Baltics Shipping comment section shared a link to a file said to prove that the Ukrainian man in question was a Dali captain, but he finished that job in 2016 -- years before the Baltimore incident.

Screen Shot 2024-03-27 at 2.33.59 PM.png

(Source: Baltics Shipping screenshot taken on Mar 27 18:33:59 2024 UTC)

Here is what the list of the Ukrainian captain's voyages from the shared link looked like:

Screen Shot 2024-03-27 at 11.18.47 AM.png

(Source: Screenshot taken on Wed Mar 27 15:18:47 2024 UTC)

To verify this information, Lead Stories inspected the HTML version of the Baltics Shipping archived page showing the information about the Ukrainian captain. The findings seen in a composite screenshot below confirm that his only voyage on Dali ended in 2016:

Screen Shot 2024-03-27 at 2.45.57 PM.png

(Sources: Archive.Is screenshots taken on Wed Mar 27 between 17:51:32 and 17:52:29 2024 UTC)

Origins of the claim

One of the first websites that posted the claim that is the focus of this fact check was the Russian propaganda website Pravda (archived here). Contrary to what is known about the incident as of now, it blamed the ship's captain exclusively for the collision.

The claim was boosted by the loyalist Russian media organizations (archived here) and pro-war Russian Z-channels on Telegram, generally supporting the Kremlin's party line (for example, here and here).

About Voice of Europe

Voice of Europe shouldn't be confused with Voice of America (archived here), Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (archived here) or any of their affiliates.

Contrary to a standard disclosure practice in quality journalism, this website does not even have an "About" section.

In July 2023, Media Bias / Fact Check wrote (archived here):

Voice of Europe reports stories from European media and frames and spins them in a misleading way that always turns out negative for immigrants ...

Media Bias / Fact Check also added that, among many questionable sources, Voice of Europe relies on Sputnik, a Russian state-sponsored propaganda outlet.

Further reading

It is not the first false claim about the collision.

Previously, Lead Stories wrote that Mitch McConnell's sister-in-law was not listed as the CEO of the company that owns the ship that hit the Baltimore bridge and that an old video of an explosion did not capture this incident.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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