During the night of Tuesday May 7 the cargo ship Jolly Nero hit a pilots’ tower at the Port of Genoa. A 55 meter-high building collapsed, burying 14 workers: 7 have been found dead, 4 are injured and 3 are still missing.
The Jolly Nero is a very large ro-ro (roll on – roll off) container ship, 240 meters long with a gross tonnage of nearly 40,600 tonnes. It was bound for Naples and was being guided away from the dock sternway (in reverse) by two tug boats and with a port pilot on board when it ran into a port control tower. Now the captain is under investigation for multiple manslaughter, even if public prosecutors accept the hypothesis of engine failure.
It’s impossible to call an accident with an almost 50,000 tonne ship bad luck or mere misfortune. Why did the manoeuvre, in perfect conditions, go so terribly wrong? The head of the Genoa Port Authority, Luigi Merlo, told Genoa’s Il Secolo XIX newspaper, “It’s very difficult to explain how this could have happened because the ship should not have been where it was.”
The Jolly Nero was built in 1976 and was formerly owned by Maersk. It is now owned by
the Italian firm Ignazio Messina & Co.
Today Genoa is in shock. The mayor has declared the city to be in mourning and all port workers will be on strike from the end of the first shift tomorrow. “Many tragedies have happened at the Port in the last few years,” Ivano Bosco, general secretary of CGIL said.
Italy has a terrible record of work-related deaths. A total of 166 workers have died at their workplace since the beginning of 2013, but this rises to at least 300 when workers who died travelling to and from their workplace are taken into account. In other European countries, accidents and deaths in maritime-related occupations tend to be near the top of the list. Long hours and associated fatigue are often cited as contributory factors. Figures for Italy were not available on the European Maritime Safety Agency website.