Friday, 21 September 2018

New ruling splits responsibility for MSC ship explosion

A new ruling on the most recent legal case concerning the fatal accident aboard container ship MSC Flaminia back in 2012 deems two parties responsible for the explosion.

A district court in New York has reached a verdict on a legal dispute in the case regarding container ship MSC Flaminia, which caught fire back in 2012 after an explosion occurred in the cargo hold. Three crew members died in the incident, and the latest verdict rules two parties responsible for the explosion aboard the vessel, which took place an early July morning in 2012. It has previously been established that cargo containing the chemical divinylbenzene (DVB) exploded aboard the ship. Altogether, five parties have been involved in the incident's legal fallout. Swiss MSC had the ship on charter from its owner, German-registered Conti. The ship's technical manager NSB Niederelbe and US company Deltech, the owner of the cargo, were also involved in the case. Norwegian Stolt Tank Containers, which had booked the ships itinerary, was among the indicted parties. The court has ruled the latter two as bearing responsibility for the accident, the verdict shows, which ShippingWatch has seen. The cargo's producer, Deltech, has been ruled as one of the two responsible parties, the ruling shows. The same applies to Stolt Tank Containers. Deltech has been judged most responsible in that it breached, among other things, its own security protocols, which warned against transporting the cargo during the hot summer season, the judge writes. The cargo was nonetheless scheduled for transport at the end of June 2012. "This fateful decision was the result of – at the very least – a combination of a considered decision at the highest levels of Deltech and managerial errors that followed," the judge writes and also takes note that that the cargo was loaded into containers several days before departure and thereby became heated even further in the New Orleans sun, the port from which the ship embarked loaded with DVB. Left in the heat The other culprit is Stolt Tank Containers, which had extensive knowledge on the specific risk of DVB being exposed to heat but did not inform MSC of this risk loaded into three of the ship's cargo holds. Meanwhile, Stolt also saw to it that the cargo was loaded into containers, in which the DVB stood exposed to the sun at the terminal, the ruling specifies. "Stolt's actions were a significant contributor to the conditions that allowed for additional heating of the DVB and thus the conditions that led to auto-polymerization," the judge writes about the event leading to the fatal explosion, which occurred when the 300 meter long and 40 meter wide ship was sailing about one kilometer from land. Therefore, Stolt is being held accountable for 45 percent of the accident. MSC declines to comment to ShippingWatch regarding the ruling. Stolt Tank Containers has sent the following statement: "On Monday September 10, 2018, Stolt Tank Containers received an unfavourable ruling in the MSC Flaminia lawsuit currently pending in the US Southern District of New York arising from the fire and explosion that occurred aboard the container ship on July 14, 2012. We were disappointed and disagree with the ruling that found fault for the casualty rested solely with our customer, Deltech, and us, Stolt Tank Containers, in our capacity as the shipper of record of the subject cargo of dangerous goods." "We are continuing to work together with our lawyers and underwriters on this matter and as the lawsuit is ongoing we are unable to comment further at this time." The case might lead to a third phase if the coming mediation between involved parties does not solve the incident's remaining issues. 

English Edit: Daniel Frank Christensen

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