Global shipping group MSC Cruises faces court after one of its liners ploughed into tourist boat in Venice canal last year
- The 1,000-cabin MSC Opera smashed head first into River Countess in June
- River Countess’ owner Uniworld is suing MSC Cruises in the High Court
- That’s because MSC Cruises refused to pay £9.7m in damages
A global shipping group is being sued in the High Court after one of its 65,000-ton cruise liners ploughed into a tourist boat in a Venice canal last year.
Panicked passengers fell on to the quay as the 1,000-cabin MSC Opera smashed head first into the smaller River Countess in June, crushing its bow and hospitalising two women.
Tourists could be heard screaming and shouting ‘hold on’ in video footage as passengers fell off the side of the river cruiser.
Panicked passengers fell on to the quay as the 1,000-cabin MSC Opera smashed head first into the smaller River Countess in June
Now Uniworld, the owner of the River Countess, is suing MSC Cruises after it refused to pay £9.7million in damages.
The smaller firm was forced to refund 1,600 customers whose trips were cancelled, and repair the River Countess. It also paid compensation, hospital bills and repatriation costs for injured passengers from Australia and New Zealand.
Uniworld’s chief executive Ellen Bettridge said: ‘We do not like to litigate but have been compelled to do so based on the stonewalling and delays by MSC.
‘They are not being responsible for the environment or for their passengers.
‘It has hurt our reputation having the video of the crash played out over and over again, it’s damaging for our brand – it’s unnerving.’
The crash happened as the MSC Opera, built in 2004, was preparing to dock in the Giudecca Canal in Venice, the waterway which leads to St Mark’s Square.
The ship lost control after a steel cable that tied it to a tugboat snapped. MSC will now be expected to respond to Uniworld’s claim via the court.
The crash happened as the MSC Opera, built in 2004, was preparing to dock in the Giudecca Canal in Venice (pictured), the waterway which leads to St Mark’s Square
MSC is the world’s second-largest shipping company, operating in 155 countries, and is owned by Italian billionaire Gianluigi Aponte.
Its fast-growing cruise arm turns over £2.2billion per year and in recent years it announced a £7.6billion investment for 11 cruise liners.
Last month it was rated as the worst cruise line for the second year in a row by consumer champion Which? and in December it was slated after another of its vessels, the Grandiosa, crashed into a pier in Palermo, Sicily.
Uniworld, a California-based company specialising in high-end river cruises, has 19 boats which carry just 130 passengers each. The ten-day Milan to Venice ten-day cruise costs between £3,000 and £9,000 per person.
Its parent, The Travel Corporation, is owned by the South African Tollman family and has a stable of 43 travel brands, including the Red Carnation Hotels in the UK.
In 2008 chairman Stanley Tollman was forced to pay £80m in tax to the US government after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for which his sentence was one day’s unsupervised probation.
MSC Cruises said: ‘MSC Cruises has been working constructively with all parties and their legal advisors since shortly after the incident, and has been facilitating a close cooperation between those involved including their insurers.
‘As liability in this matter is still under investigation by the responsible authorities it is inappropriate to comment further at this stage. MSC Cruises is committed to continuing to cooperate fully in order to resolve this matter.’