According to several passengers on the Carnival Vista, the cruise ship swamped piers and many smaller boats moored there yesterday afternoon when leaving the port of Messina, Sicily.

We were contacted and told about the mishap today. The port of Messina has a protective industrial zone in the shape of a reverse shaped “C” for large vessels and cruise ships.  At the entrance/exit of the port, there are piers (at 10:00 o’clock, in the left upper corner of the photo to the right) which provide mooring and protection for smaller boats. You can see a close up here. While the Vista was leaving port, it came perilously close to the piers and the thrust from its stern created a turmoil which turned over the piers and swamped smaller moored vessels, sinking several of the boats. 

The damage to the piers was so severe that some of the passengers thought that the Vista must have hit the piers and boats.

The passengers stated that it was a “beautiful, sunny and calm day” when the accident occurred.

I am assuming that a local pilot may have been on-board at the time, although it is less than clear who was in control of the cruise ship when it damaged the piers and boats. There were reportedly no announcements afterward from the captain regarding what happened. According to these passengers, the Vista “didn’t stop and we were slightly delayed out of port.”

A number of Italian newspapers published articles today, saying that the local port authority is conducting an investigation regarding the incident. One newspaper reports that the Vista caused damage to two concrete piers and sank several boats “under the astonished gaze of several citizens.” This newspaper further states that “for a moment, it was feared that the situation could escalate and that the same cruise ship might not be able to straighten the course and regain the open sea.”

You can watch dramatic video of the Vista as it swamped the piers and boats in an article by the Italian newspaper Gazzetta del Sud which we posted to our Facebook page.

The photo below is from the Tempostretto.  The Dream Blog Cruise Magazine has posted the video below, with a credit to Gazzetta del Sul:

Update: An Italian newspaper says that that there was reportedly 250,000 euros in damage caused by the Carnival ship due to “two piers destroyed, one beyond repair, a number of ancillary facilities (such as anchor lines of the boats) damaged, a pilot of the mooring sunk and another dozen small boats in poor condition.”

August 30 2016 Update:  Another Italian newspaper accurately characterized the waves generated by the Vista as “a small tsunami,” which trampled two wharves and boats moored at Marina del Nettuno.

September 4 2016 Update: You can see another video of the incident here, from the Facebook page of Ships of Messina, showing another angle of the disaster caused by the Vista’s wake.

Here’s a video showing the correct way for the Carnival Vista to leave the port of Messina.

September 10 201:Update: Here’s a video taken from a passenger aboard the cruise ship, showing another angle of the incident. Video credit: Loiue Old YouTube.

If you have information about the incident, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Carnival Vista

  • Barney Fergus

    My question is Was this the first visit by the Vista to this port?

  • John Goldsmith

    Oops, just doesn’t quite cover it….

  • michele todaro

    In my opinion i would state that is clear that was probably wrong manouvering due to engine trouble with slow action taken in right time. I assume that Crew did not realize what happend and did not take the correct action to avoid such incident.Considering that this ultramodern ship contain sofisticated electronic equipments which should be knowledgable.

    Chief Eng.
    Michele Todaro

  • Jules

    Where were the pilot boats? Don’t they usually guide cruise ships out of port safely? Especially such a large ship and an awkward port.

  • BigMac

    I don’t think there was any engine problems here, just poor maneuvering by the bridge resulting in over compensating with the aft thrusters.

    Fault lies with who was in charge at the time, whether it’s the local pilot, Captain or Staff Captain.

  • Eric

    No, pilot boats are not used to drive big vessels out of the port. Pilot boats are used to pick up the pilot once the vessel is safe from dangerous things like piers, breakwaters, other ships, shallow water, etc …
    The problem sometimes is that cruise Masters do believe that they are much better than local pilots and it could lead to disastrous situations when he doesn’t even listen to the pilot. It might be the case.

  • I know ‘cos I was there

    I was onboard at the time and witnessed the whole thing from the aft of the ship directly above the bridge “overhang” (or whatever its called!)

    The weather was perfectly clear and waters calm. As the ship left the port, I could see from my vantage point that the turn it was making could not possibly clear the marina and was definitely about to hit until Vista applied its stern jets. If it hadn’t done this then not only those small boats and jetty have been taken out, but Vista would have been back in dry dock for repairs also.

    I did not see any pilot boat and no announcements were made on the ship during or after the incident. It was like it never happened. “Move along, nothing here to see”

    Not many on board were aware (from what I could tell) apart from those looking out of their balconies, in my location or at the stern of the ship pool areas and cabins.

    I took photos and video’d the after effects, but didn’t capture the pier lifting. Annoying as I had a gopro fixed that would have captured from start to finish but took it down before it happened to use elsehwere.

  • I know ‘cos I was there:

    Care to share your photos and/or video of the incident? I’d be interested in posting them here or to my Cruise Law News Facebook page, with or without attribution to you.

    Thanks for your comments.

  • Wendie

    We took this exact same cruise on the Vista back in late June/early July, without incident, and there were several cruises with the exact same itinerary both before ours and several since – therefore it was definitely not the first time Vista had docked in Messina.

  • SB Henry

    I too took the same cruise in mid July and I enjoyed the view leaving the port of Messina from my balcony at the back of the ship. It was as smooth leaving Messina as it was leaving any of the other ports.

  • CK

    It’s the harbor Pilot’s job to understand the harbor and to drive the ship appropriately. Poor piloting from Messina pilot

  • Mark McGinty

    The quay wall where the cruise ships tie up is only a few hundred meters from the marina, not a lot of room to maneuver, no room for errors. It looks to me like prevailing winds typically push the ships to center channel, but on this day the wind was blowing almost the opposite direction, pushing it towards the marina.

    I wasn’t there so this is pure speculation, but it didn’t look like a stern thruster to me, it looked like prop wash from full ahead. (Also evidenced by the fact that the ship started making way/moving forward — up to that point it was side-slipping.) Clearly the bow thruster was running but taking some time to overcome the forces on the ship.

    What’s unclear is why they waited so long to go forward, I’d guess they were waiting for the bow thruster to point it in the right direction, but didn’t anticipate being pushed so far toward the marina as that happened.

    On a sailboat we always evaluate the wind and tide carefully before every departure and landing. With as much freeboard as those ships have, they need to as well.

  • Response to OK:

    If a local pilot were aboard, he became a part of the bridge team along with the ship’s navigational officers. We don’t know his or her particular contribution to the problem or if he or she were actually in control. Legally, the master of the vessel remains responsible for the safe navigation of the cruise ship, even if a pilot is on board .

  • dion galea

    did carnival vista cruise in the mediterian next september pls 2017

  • Nick

    Hi – its 8 months since it happened now. Jim – it would be really nice to close the loop on this one and post the findings of the investigation (there must have been one!).

  • Ken

    Yes I agree with Nick that it would be interesting to see a post on the outcome of this investigation.
    If a local pilot is on board and at the controls when a mishap like this occurs, who is liable?