The UK’s Admiralty Court has foiund MSC Cruises laible for the 2019 collision with an inland river cruise vessel at Venice.
Outlining the details, the Court said that on 2nd June, 2019, the ’MSC Opera’, operated by MSC Cruises on a demise charter, ran into the much smaller inland cruise ship ’River Countess’, which was berthed at the San Basilio Pier in the Giudecca Canal in Venice.
Although 28 of the smaller ship’s passengers were still on board or in the process of disembarking, ’River Countess’ having just completed a six-day cruise, there were only a few personal injuries, none being serious.
However, ‘River Countess’ suffered substantial damages. She was taken to Trieste for repairs, which took three months and cost over €3 mill, returning to service in early September, 2019 after the loss of 14 scheduled cruises.
MSC accepted 100% responsibility for the collision, the Court said. In a written notice dated 18th March, 2020, it accepted liability – “for all loss and damage properly attributable to, and legally recoverable by the claimants as a result of, the collision.”
That admission was recorded by Order of Teare J dated 23rd April 2020, reserving costs and directing that – “The issues of (i) whether the claimants (and each of them) are entitled to sue the defendant for their alleged losses; and (ii) the quantum of the defendant’s liability to the claimants (and each of them) shall be referred to the Admiralty Registrar for determination.”
The UK Admiralty Judge, Mr Justice Andrew Baker said that by his order upon a case management conference held on 9th March, 2021, the defendant having shortly before that hearing agreed to concede that Italian law would govern the recoverability of all of the heads of loss asserted, he directed, and gave directions for a – “preliminary determination of an issue of Italian law”
MSC had already conceded and paid certain amounts, for example, salvage at €100,000 and a cost of €351,655 incurred to have ’River Countess’ moved to Trieste for repairs. MSC had also conceded liability for the reasonable cost of repair, including ancillary costs, such as towage and surveyors’ and naval architects’ fees, with quantum to be assessed if not agreed.
Under loss of earnings, the first claimant was a Dutch company and the ’River Countess’ registered owner. The second claimant was a Swiss company (Uniworld), which was operating the vessel at the time of the collision as her demise charterer for the 2019 calendar year. The third claimant was a Californian company operating as a holiday tour operator.
Uniworld and the river cruise ship’s owners claimed for items ranging from the loss of revenue for the cancelled cruises, amounting to nearly $5.5 mill, plus future cruise revenues, as well as airline costs for cancelled or rebooked flights for 1,600 passengers, refunds made to the 28 passengers on board at the time of the collision, and other costs, including hospital bills incurred by the passengers settled by the operator.
In addition to the issues surrounding Italian law, the Court also considered issues related to charter agreement’s structure between the owners and Uniworld.