British High Court Orders MSC Cruises to Pay for Damages Arising From Runaway MSC Opera Cruise Ship

Yesterday, a British court ordered MSC Cruises to pay damages to Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection caused by the MSC Opera cruise ship when it crashed into the River Countess riverboat in Venice in June 2019.

In the first two paragraphs of the order of the High Court of England and Wales (which you can read here), the court explained that:

“On 2 June 2019, the ocean-going cruise liner MSC Opera, operated by the defendant demise charterer, ran into the much smaller inland cruise ship River Countess, which was berthed at the San Basilio Pier in the Giudecca Canal in Venice. The incident attracted global media attention and fuelled an existing controversy over the use of Venetian waters by large cruise ships.

Mercifully, though 28 of the smaller ship’s passengers were still on board or in the process of disembarking, River Countess just completed a six day cruise, there were only a few personal injuries, none serious. River Countess suffered substantial damage. . . ” 

At the time, there were a number of videos on Instagram and YouTube of the frightening spectacle:

“A 65,000-ton cruise ship blared an urgent horn as it made a beeline toward a busy Venetian dock, sending panicked onlookers running for safety.”

Video showed the moment the 2,100-passenger MSC Opera slammed into the wharf in the San Basilio Terminal on the Giudecca Canal. “A deep thud and then the sound of shattering glass could be heard as the vessel scrapped along the quay and passersby shouted instructions to flee the rogue cruise ship.”

Travel Weekly reported:

Uniworld CEO Ellen Bettridge said that the company had filed the lawsuit after extensive conversations with MSC proved unproductive. Bettridge said that due to the “severe damage to our ship, we were forced to cancel 14 voyages, frustrating our guests and travel partners during the peak summer season.”

While MSC agreed to cover the physical losses, the company argued that under Italian law, it should not have to compensate Uniworld for loss of earnings. Uniworld had to repair the River Countess and refund and compensate 1,600 customers whose trips were canceled. It also paid compensation, hospital bills and repatriation costs for injured passengers, the law firm said.

The High Court of England and Wales said that MSC Cruise Management Limited has to pay Uniworld 2.4 million euros for physical losses along with what could be more than 7.5 million euros in “non-physical losses,” according to Devonshires, the British law firm representing Uniworld.

After the award was announced, cruise friendly members of the media posted articles trying to downplay the court decision.

Cruise shill Doug Parker a/k/a Cruise Radio falsely wrote that the MSC Operasustained scratches but no hull damage.”

In truth, the court actually ruled that the MSC ship suffered “substantial damage.” The damaged ship was removed to Trieste for repairs that took three months and cost over “€3 million returning to service in early September 2019 after a loss of 14 scheduled cruises.”

Stewat Chiron a/k/a Cruise Guy went to Twitter to proclaim that large cruise ships could safely operate in Venice; he criticized the comments of Uniworld CEO Ellen Bettridge who said: “For years, the city of Venice has been plagued by massive ocean cruise liners being able to dock in the historic city, causing an eyesore to its beauty. It took an incident of this nature to bring about change.”

There is no question that this incident was used by those individuals concerned with the effect of large cruise ships on Venice to protest and ask for a much-needed ban of such ships. Posters associated with the “NoGrandiNavi“movement contained images of the runaway cruise ship with its horns blaring as it smashed into the smaller vessel (photo, top).

Videos of the huge, out-of-control cruise ship, smashing into the dock and knocking tourists from the little ship in front of it into the water, looked like an attack-of-the-aliens science fiction movie.  But this was no low budget movie. It was exactly what many local Venetians predicted would happen given the presence of huge cruise ships sailing in the Giudecca canal next to the ancient city of Venice.

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Video – MSC Opera – Beppe Caccia.

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