MSC Opera crash in Venice –report cites violations on cruise ship as cause

Over 300 pages to explain the reasons for the collision that happened in June 2019 against a riverboat and dock: equipment failure, excessive speed and negligent conduct are behind the avoided tragedy.

By Eugenio Pendolini

30 June 2020

VENEZIA. “Once informed that the helmsman’s console was off, the captain should have immediately ordered the helmsman to switch to emergency navigation instead of requesting that command be passed to the central console. This violation can be attributed to the negligence of Captain Carmine Siviero”.

There are the words with which the definitive evaluation by the Procura di Venezia implicates the Captain of the MSC Opera in the accident of 2 June 2019, when the cruise ship crashed into the dock at
San Basilio, crushing the front of the riverboat River Countess, and showing the entire world the fragility of a city crossed by these giants of the sea.

Every little aspect of that morning has been minutely reconstructed in the 326 page assessment drafted by technical consultants Andrea Petron and Giorgio Gava, who hold the dossier opened for damages caused by the danger of culpable shipwreck.

As we read in the reconstruction, the erroneous maneuver (without which the ship would have been able to stop in time) happened in the face of an engine failure. To be precise, a breakdown of the electrical panel that powers the rudders and propulsion. The alarm arrived at 7:26 in the morning: a full hour before the crash, during which, however, according to the experts the decision was made to ignore it.

“The violations can be attributed to negligence and incompetence of the chief electrician and to the negligence of the chief engineer and the head of engineering”, we read in the document. These positions will have to be clarified by the Prosecutor before any record is made in the registry of suspects. Instead the pilots from the Port and tug operators would be cleared by the conclusions.

The behavior of the tug operators – who were Angelina C. and Ivonne C. at bow and stern – was in fact correct, and their power was enough to avoid the collision of the MSC Opera with the boat and the dock, if only the ship’s commander, who is responsible for managing emergencies even though the cruise ships when in the lagoon are “conducted” by pilots from the Port, had followed the correct procedure for breakdowns.

In their rebuttal, the experts hired by MSC point out the role played by the irregularity of the wiring responsible for the initial failure, which itself would have “caused confusion and difficulty in reading the situation”.

In practice, the short circuit would have meant that a yellow beacon rather than red would light in case of a system failure, thus provoking an initial underestimation of the problem. This thesis is rejected by the Procura, according to which the problem “does not justify for any reason” the delay and the execution of the emergency procedure. For MSC, then, stopping the ship’s propellers would have been an option “much riskier than what the captain chose to do, which is to ask engineering to put the ship in full reverse”.

Another determining factor in the crash of 2 June was the use of the tugs and anchors to avoid the accident. And in this sense, it is the speed at which the ship entered the lagoon that is in the sights of the Procura: in the stretch from the port mouth to Sant’Andrea. This would have rendered useless the intervention of tug operator Ivonne C. as well as the deployment of the left anchor, released into the water but whose mechanism was blocked precisely due to the excessive speed (6.8 knots).

This is the company’s reply: “MSC has taken note of the conclusions of the technical report which acknowledges that the breakdown was caused by a technical failure that dates back to the ship’s construction, and for which MSC is completely blameless and which could not have been identified by the regular inspections to which the ship has always been subject. The ship’s crew had very limited time to react, and it is precisely this reaction, though among all the difficulties of the situation, allowed them to limit the damage to a minimum. The Company, and its defense team, remain available to the Procura”.

Source: La Nuova Venezia

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