Cruise

Uniworld sues MSC over $18.5m in damages from Venice ship collision

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has levelled a lawsuit against MSC Cruises over €11.5 million ($18.5 million) in damages sustained in a Venice ship collision last year.

In March, MSC Opera collided with a wharf and smashed into Uniworld’s River Countess while docked at the San Basilio Cruise Terminal in Venice, an event that triggered renewed calls to reroute large ships dropping anchor in Venice, as well as an outpouring of protesters in their thousands.

The event, and subsequent costs, set Uniworld back around $18.5 million and forced the cancellation of more than a dozen of its voyages.

Travel Weekly has contacted Uniworld for comment. However, in a statement, CEO and President Ellen Bettridge told multiple sources that Uniworld filed the suit after extensive conversations with MSC over compensation were unproductive.

“We are extremely disappointed with the unprofessional manner in which MSC has decided to ignore the gravity of the situation, which has disrupted our guests, our partners and our team,” Bettridge said in a statement.

“Aside from the severe damage to our ship [River Countess], we were forced to cancel 14 voyages, frustrating our guests and travel partners during the peak summer season.”

According to estimates quoted by multiple sources, Uniworld’s losses are in excess of €11.5 million ($18.5 million), which includes passenger reimbursements, ship damage, lost revenue and the protection of travel agents’ commissions.

“We do not like to litigate but have been compelled to do so based on the stonewalling and delays by MSC and its representatives — even after receiving a letter of guarantee by their own insurance agency, West of England,” Bettridge said.

“We expect more and better from a fellow member of the cruise industry and regret having to go to court to seek fitting remedy.”

In a response, MSC Cruises told Travel Weekly it has been working “constructively” with all parties and their legal advisors since 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,” a spokeswoman said.

“MSC Cruises is committed to continuing to cooperate fully in order to resolve this matter.”

River Countess was reportedly taken out of service for repairs after the incident, which stretched months longer than initially projected. The vessel resumed sailing on 8 September.

Uniworld told multiple outlets nearly 1,600 guests were impacted over the course of several months. The incident remains under investigation.

Featured image: Uniworld’s River Countess (supplied)

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