Local Italian media has reported that the Master and certain crew members of the cruise ship ‘MSC Opera’ are facing jail terms, following an incident in Venice in 2019. However, MSC Cruises has informed ICSI that “all defendants were able to commute their sentences into monetary fines”.
This was the conclusion of a criminal case stemming from the accident when the cruise ship hit a river cruise vessel and a berth while arriving in Venice.
The collision occurred on 2nd June, 2019, as the ’MSC Opera’ was approaching the cruise terminal. Eye witnesses reported that the cruise ship failed to slow as it neared the berth and even appeared to possibly speed up as it hit Uniworld’s river cruise ship ‘River Countess’, and then the berth.
Several passengers on board the ’River Countess’ suffered minor injuries. The river cruise ship sustained substantial damage.
Testifying in the case, expert witnesses cited several mistakes made by the ship’s crew that led to the accident. MSC Cruises had tried to blame the ship’s builder, Chantiers de l’Atlantique, claiming inherent design flaws in the cruise ship.
Among the issues aired in Court was the failure by the Chief Engineer and Chief Electrician to heed a warning signal regarding a possible failure on the main electrical switchboard, which controlled the power supply to the engine and steering controls on the bridge.
The experts said that a warning had first triggered while the vessel was still in the lagoon. When the crew failed to address it, the bridge controls switched to emergency backups for the power supply. MSC claimed that the alarm failed to show up on the monitoring system blaming it on a design flaw in the surveillance system.
They also claimed that the cruise ship was sailing above the designated speed during parts of its transit in the canal, as it proceeded toward the terminal. Two tugs assisted the ship as it neared the dock nearly an hour after the system failure.
The emergency power system, which was designed to last for a maximum of 30 minutes, failed as the ship neared the dock, leaving the officers incapable of manoeuvring and regulating the ship’s speed.
The two tugs allegedly did everything they could to slow the cruise ship prevent a more serious impact. Both tug Masters were exonerated from blame for the accident by the Court.
According to Italian media reports, ‘MSC Opera’s’ Capt Carmine Siviero will serve five months in prison, while the Chief Engineer and the Chief Electrician will each spend two months in prison.
In addition, two other crew members will spend 10 days behind bars while other crew members who were also named in the case, including the officer-on- watch, the co-navigator, and the security officer, were exonerated.
Insurance claims pending from the accident are also in the process of being settled.
For example, Uniworld, owners of the ’River Countess’, has filed a near $14 mill claim for the damage suffered by its vessel, as well as for the lost revenues while the river cruise ship was out of service for repairs.
MSC Cruises has informed ICSI that the sentences issued “indicate that the alleged offence was deemed a minor one by the Italian legal code. As such, all defendants were able to commute their sentences into monetary fines. No one will serve any time and no one has admitted liability. In fact, this leaves MSC Cruises free to pursue other avenues of action to uncover what it believes to be the true causes of the incident and its employees can continue their professional lives”.