Jolly Nero, the 37-year-old ro-ro/containership that hit a harbour wall and toppled the control tower in Genoa on Tuesday night, had been checked by port state control inspectors just days earlier.
Minor deficiencies were uncovered during an inspection in Spain on May 2, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence, but nothing sufficiently serious to detain the vessel: a fire safety operational booklet was said to be incomplete.
An inspection in the same Spanish port of Castellon a year earlier found that some hatchway covers had not been properly maintained. The ship was involved in one previous casualty before this week’s fatal incident, in 2001.
Seven people were confirmed dead as of Wednesday afternoon after the Italy-flag Jolly Nero collided with the building. Several more were injured and others still missing, according to media reports.
The 1976-built ship is owned and operated by Italy’s Ignazio Messina and was leaving Genoa for Naples at the time of the incident, having arrived from Castellon a few days earlier.
As many as 14 people were in the control tower at the time, more than usual as staff were changing shift.
Parts of the tower fell into the sea and some people were feared trapped or to have fallen into the water, Reuters reported.
The cause of the incident is not confirmed and search operations were ongoing.
In a statement Messina Group said it was “at total and unconditional disposal of all competent authorities in the common effort to identify as quickly as possible the causes of a tragic accident, occurred during the usual operations of exit from the Port of Genoa”.
According to the BBC, Ignazio Messina’s managing director Stefano Messina, who arrived at the port soon after the crash, was in tears as he told journalists: “We are all utterly shocked. Nothing like this has ever happened before, we are desperate.”
Genoa’s Il Secolo XIX newspaper quoted Jolly Nero’s master saying that two engines appeared to have failed and “we lost control of the ship”.
Genoa Port Authority boss Luigi Merlo told the newspaper: “It’s very difficult to explain how this could have happened because the ship should not have been where it was.”
The 30,217 dwt Jolly Nero, with container capacity of 1,924 teu, is one of the oldest vessels in Ignazio Messina’s 14-strong owned fleet. Although Jolly Arancione was built in 1975, the company has some modern ships including the just-delivered 3,900 teu Jolly Quarzo.
Ignazio Messina has another four ro-ro boxships on order for 2014 delivery. Genoa handles a variety of different ships and cargoes. It is home port for most of MSC Cruises’ ships.
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