Press Conference on “Al Salam Boccaccio 98″ shipwreck

I partecipanti alla conferenza

I parenti delle vittime e il pool di avvocati

Genoa (Italy) – A press conference has been held on tuesday, 20th July by the relatives and survivors of “Al Salam Bocaccio 98″ shipwreck, to present a lawsuit against R.I.Na. SpA (Registro Italiano Navale – Italian Classification Society).

“Al Salam Boccaccio 98″ was the ship owned by the El Salam Shipping Company, that sank in the Read Sea, in 2006,  causing over 1000 casualties.

With this lawsuit, the Association of Victim’s Families, made up of 968 people, for the most part relatives of  150 persons lost in the shipwreck, as well as a few survivors of the accident, plans to confirm R.I.Na’s serious although not exclusive responsibility for the tragedy, for the numerous and several oversights for which the company remains co-involved.

Here the official press release:

GENOA – “Al Salam Boccaccio 98” Victims’ Families Association, the sunken ferry which went down in the Red Sea on February 2nd, 2006, off the coast of Safaga, in Egypt, announces it has deposited today an act of citation against R.I.Na. SpA (Registro Italiano Navale, Italian Classification Society) with the Court of Genoa.

The Association furthermore declares to have entrusted the duty of representation in all appropriate venues for these proceedings to the known as ASB Consortium, an international defence group coordinated by the Associated Studio Ambrosio & Commodo of Turin and made up of lawyers selected from Egypt (Mr. Yasser Fathy Mahmoud, Lawyer in Cairo), France (Mr. Jean-Pierre Bellecave, Avocat à la Cour de Bordeaux), Spain (Mr. Carlos Villacorta, Abogado del Colegio de Madrid, Great Britain (Mr. Nigel Taylor, Solicitor In England and the United States (Mr. Robert L. Lieff, Lawyer in San Francisco, California).

With this action, the Association of Victim’s Families, made up of 968 people, for the most part relatives of the 150 persons lost in the shipwreck, as well as a few survivors of the accident, plans to confirm R.I.Na’s substantial responsibility for the tragedy, for the numerous and several oversights for which the company remains co-involved.

In particular, the Association of Victim’s Families has identified two particular areas in which R.I.Na. SpA’s negligent conduct actively contributed to the sinking:

–          Naval stability: the “Al Salam Boccaccio 98” was intrinsically unsafe, badly designed and equipped, above all starting from the structural modifications which it underwent during 1990-1991.

–          Navigational safety: The ship-owning company, the manager, the captain and the entire crew were afflicted with a high degree of inadequacy and disposed of an insufficient capability, organisation and means to guarantee passenger transportation service safety. Had respect for the Safety Management (ISM) Code been applied, their service operability would not have been permitted.

Both the areas of blame are proved by ample written documentation, collected after four years of hard investigations (and in part obtained by the Association through a preceding administrative contention with the same R.I.Na), from testimony, results of independent international and national inquiries and expert technical opinions, drafted by experts in the course of private investigations commissioned by the Association and by the consortium of its defence team.

The civil case filed today intends to bring out evidence that R.I.Na. SpA has fundamentally erred in executing its proper obligations of control and supervision, and that through superficial, inadequate and neglected checks, allowed the “Al Salam Boccaccio 98” ferry and four other old and defective sister ships (now three after the sinking of the Al Salam Petrarca 90, on June 22nd, 2002), to continue sailing, even though by now no longer desired by the maritime market in the Mediterranean and thus sold to “developing” nations, for a value of their weight in demolition steel, commanded by undertrained and non prepared crews, transporting millions of passengers between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, posing a constant risk.

With special reference to the Al Salam Boccaccio 98 tragedy, the Association maintains that R.I.Na SpA should have allowed the ship to sail only after having ascertained the respect of international agreements and of safety criteria along the lines of control performed by crew and management, and that, however, only after having adopted precise technical measures regarding the ferry’s structure in relation to stability, including for example the fitting of large grids to allow for water discharge in the scuppers. R.I.Na. should in fact have been aware of the Vincenzo Florio ferry accident in 2004, where the water of the fireproof system accumulated in the car deck, dangerously compromising the stability of the ship.

The failure of El Salam’s safety policy and R.I.Na. SpA’s parallel negligence substantially contributed to the deaths of more than a thousand people, causing the greatest Egyptian maritime disaster –the ninth in order of seriousness in the history of modern civilian nautical history – a tragedy that even four years later still remains perfectly intact and alive in the memory of the entire North African population.

With the civil suit activated today, the Association intends to thus obtain from the Italian Civil Justice System, compensation for damages caused to hundreds of people who lost not only their loved ones in the shipwreck, a loss obviously irrecoverable by any monetary compensation, but also in many cases the only source of income for the family.

The total compensation sought has been set at over 100,000,000 Euros

The Association hopes furthermore that the outcome of this suit, highlighting the responsibility of one of the bodies in charge of controlling Italian and international navigation and therefore highlighting the errors committed, can serve to focus greater public attention on the theme of safety at sea and contribute therefore to avoiding other future, serious tragedies such as that which occurred to the Al Salam Boccaccio 98, and to avoid further loss of valuable human lives.

In virtue of this, the Association intends to ask the Court of Genoa to condemn R.I.Na. SpA for the management of dangerous activities.

Hopefully, court actions as the one that starts today in Genoa with this complaint will in term contribute to make the actors in the maritime business to take their responsibilities and start thinking in their clients and employees personal safety rather than exclusively focusing in their financial benefits.

Genoa, 20 July 2010

Per il comunicato in Italiano visitate questa pagina