IUMI 2020: Nero Drydock recovery still in progress, legal proceedings underway

An accident involving a yacht in dry dock in Genoa last year continues to be a matter of legal dispute when it comes to where liability should be ascribed and whose insurers will pay for it.

Filippo Pellerano, of the charterer’s legal representative Studio Legale Mordiglia, said at the IFY Worksop IUMI 2020, held this year online, that it would be premature for him to express an opinion on where liabilities lied, he gave a welcome update on what happened post-incident.

Pleasure craft Nero (IMO 1008449) capsized in dry dock 1, Genoa, during the evening of September 10th. Four people were injured and taken to hospital. Two more were rescued from the yacht.

The vessel was being taken into drydock for hull inspection and class, prior to what would have been a substantial refit lasting several months. There were therefore a number of contractual relationships in place:

  • The refit contract was between the contractor and the owners
  • The drydock booking was between the contractor and the Dry Dock

There were also three distinct insurer relationships. For the owner it was an H&M contract. For the refitter there was ship repair liability and for the drydock operation it would be with liability underwriters.

The responsibility of the Dry Dock was to grant the use of the dock and the docking blocks, to supervise the activities of the divers, and the coordinate the manoeuvre. The entering of the vessel into the drydock and the draining of the water was supervised by the dockmaster.

The owner’s duty was to provide the docking plan and other relevant information, to present the vessel in ballast/stable condition, and to assist the drydock master during the operation, with a crew and plot on board.

The contractor’s responsibility in this instance was to provide the side blocks need to give the vessel extra stability after all of the water had been drained from the dock, and to prepare the actual docking plan on the basis of the project docking plan provided by the owner.

Initially things progressed smoothly. The vessel presented at the gate to the dock on September 10th 2019. After entering, the dock was slowly drained by the dockmaster. It was established that the keel was in contact with the central line docking blocks

At this point the sideblocks were put in place to provide both support for the hull and stability for the vessel. At this point the remainder of the water began to be pumped out.

Suddenly, things went quickly wrong. Before all of the water had been drained, the vessel quickly listed and rotated portside. Water ingress ensued.

Pellerano said that a list of potential errors (and who would have been responsible for them) was put together, without stating that any one or more of them had actually occurred.

These were:

  • An improper information docking plan (which, if it occurred, would have been at the fault of the owner)
  • Vessel instability for some reason (e.g., a fault in ballast) – would also be the fault of the owner
  • An error in manoeuvring (which would have been the dry dock’s fault). This could include the early or late placement of the side blocks.
  • A flaw in the actual docking plan and/or side blocks, which would have been the contractor’s fault if it had occurred. However, if the sideblocks were sound, but the placement was wrong, leading to an incorrect weight distribution between the side blocks and the central line of blocks under the keel, that would be the dry dock operator’s fault.

Looking at the actual insurance implications as a result, Pellerano noted that respondents/repairers had a duty to mitigate, that there were several exclusions for indirect consequential losses, and that the knock-for-knock regime was not in place.

Phase 1 of the repair was to completely dry the dock (and the vessel, which had suffered water ingress) to undertake a multibeam scan and stability calculation, and to fix additional pillars on the port side. Although this was a relatively simple operation from a technical point of view, it could have gone wrong if the originally provided data regarding the vessel had been incorrect.

The current recovery position is in phase 2, with the Nero now upright, the pillars removed, and the hull outlets patched. There had been an installation of air bags and drydocking on new docking blocks.

All of this was achieved by a professional salvage team employed by the owners. The investigation was still ongoing.

The loss from the event in total looked to be heading into the low double-digit millions of dollars.

2007-built, Cayman Islands-flagged, 1,413 gt Nero is owned by Weirview Ltd care of manager Dohle Yachts of Douglas, Isle of Man. It is entered with Shipowners’ Club on behalf of Weirview Ltd.