Sentences on five MSC Opera crew are commuted to fines

An Italian court’s sentencing of Captain Carmine Siviero of the MSC Opera (IMO 9250464) to five months in prison, along with two months sentences for the chief engineer and the chief electrician, and 10 days’ imprisonment for two other crew members, have been commuted into fines because of the minor nature of the offences. The penalties related to the events that led up to an accident in the Port of Venice in June 2019 (IMN, June 3rd 2019). It is understood that an agreement had been reached between the prosecutors and the representatives of the accused that would see none of the seafarers sent to prison, and MSC would continue to deny liability.

An MSC spokesperson said that “MSC Cruises wishes to clarify that the sentences that have been 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.”

The court had heard that there was a failure by the chief engineer and chief electrician to address a warning signal of a possible failure on the main electrical switchboard of the MSC Opera while it was still in the lagoon off Venice. That failure related to the power supply to the engine and steering controls on the bridge. The failure caused the bridge controls to go on to emergency backups for their power supply. However MSC insisted that the alarm failed to show up on the monitoring system.

The emergency power system, which was designed to last for a maximum of 30 minutes, failed as the ship neared the dock, leaving the bridge incapable of manoeuvring or of regulating the ship’s speed.

Uniworld, owners of the River Countess, which was struck by the MSC Opera during the incident, has filed a nearly $14m claim for damages to its vessel and the ensuing lost revenues while the river cruise ship was out of service for repairs. MSC continues to contest liability for this claim.

2004-built, Panama-flagged, 65,591 gt MSC Opera is owned by Newco Opera SA care of MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co of Geneva, Switzerland. ISM manager is MSC Cruise Management UK Ltd of Uxbridge, UK. It is entered with West Of England Club (Claims Team 2) on behalf of Newco Opera SA. It is entered for H&M with SIAT SpA on behalf of MSC Cruise SA, with Gard having a subscription position.