MSC Cruises Found Liable for Lost Revenues and Costs in 2019 Accident

MSC ordered to pay costs and lost revenues from 2019 accident in Venice
MSC accepted responsibility for its cruise ship hitting the river cruise ship docked in Venice

Published Oct 18, 2021 2:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

U.K. Admiralty Court has found MSC Cruises liable for both physical damages as well as some “non-physical damages,” that resulted from the 2019 allision as the MSC Opera approached the dock in Venice, Italy hitting the river cruise ship River Countess while the vessel was tied to the dock and in the process of disembarking passengers. The court judgment announced last week after a two-day hearing in July could total approximately $8.7 million after costs and interest.

The 65,500 gross ton MSC Opera was approaching the dock in Venice on June 2, 2019, when the vessel lost steering control and despite the efforts of the tugs assisting the cruise ship was unable to stop. The larger cruise ship hit the 3,500 gross ton River Countess causing significant damage to the ship. Twenty-eight passengers were still aboard the River Countess which had just completed a six-day cruise, with several passengers and crew reporting personal injuries. Several of the passengers were taken to a hospital after the accident.

The River Countess sustained approximately $3.5 million in physical damages that took more than three months to repair. The cruise ship was out of service for the entire summer season with 14 cruises canceled.

MSC Cruises accepted all responsibility for the accident and has already paid over a half-million dollars for the salvage of the river cruise ship and the cost of moving it to Trieste for repairs. MSC also conceded liability for the reasonable cost of repair, including ancillary costs such as towage and surveyors’ and naval architects’ fees, but asked the Admiralty Court to rule on other claims made both by the owner of the river cruise ship and Uniworld that was operating the vessel under charter.  

For the purposes of the claims, it had been agreed that they would be using Italian law, which MSC claimed excluded liabilities of the additional items categorized as “non-physical damages,” including lost future revenues. Uniworld and the vessel’s owners made claims for items ranging from the loss of revenue for the canceled cruises amounting to nearly $5.5 million plus future cruise revenues, as well as airline costs for canceled or rebooked flights for 1,600 passengers, refunds made to the 28 passengers aboard the River Countess at the time the vessel was struck, and other costs including hospital bills incurred by the passengers paid by Uniworld.

In addition to the issues of Italian law, the court also considered issues related to the structure of the charter agreement. 

U.K. Admiralty Court ruled that the net loss of revenue in respect of the cruises canceled because the River Countess was out of service is recoverable from the defendant along in part for the payments to passengers to mitigate brand damage or liability for personal injury. The airline expenses incurred by Uniworld can also be coverable, but the loss of potential future revenue after the vessel returned to service was ruled unrecoverable. The court’s judgment cleared the way for approximately $2.8 million for physical damages. 

MSC said it welcomed the court’s judgment highlighting that it had accepted responsibility for the “unfortunate accident,” and had already made some payments. The company said it had also indicated its willingness to pay additional demonstrated expenses accepting the court’s interpretation of Italian law.