Cruise Ship Breaks Mooring Lines and Causes Damage

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MSC Cruises’ MSC Sinfonia broke free of her mooring lines on Saturday, January 6, 2024, during gale force winds. The ship drifted significantly and caused damage to nearby vessels and docks.

Fortunately, no injuries were reported and the ship was returned to a more sheltered, secure berth with the help of four tugboats.

MSC Sinfonia Breaks Mooring Lines

MSC Sinfonia, which is currently out of service for maintenance in Syracuse, Italy on the island of Sicily, broke free of her mooring lines on January 6. At the time of the incident, wind gusts were recorded as high as 46 miles per hour (74 kilometers per hour) or 40 knots, well above the 34-knot threshold for gale force.

The wind direction was directly against the ship’s 13-deck-high side, putting maximum force on the vessel and snapping the ropes that held her docked.

According to SiracusaNews, the vessel’s stern hit the dock, before the ship then drifted into the adjacent Marina Yachting yard and impacted several boats and nearby piers. Several tugboats were needed to bring MSC Sinfonia back under control and move her back to a berth.

Officials from Lakkios Yacht Club, where the majority of the damage occurred, have expressed their dismay at the incident in light of the weather forecasts and the potential for such a troubling situation to develop.

“We believe that the accident that happened today was of an unprecedented severity,” a statement from Yacht Club Lakkios read on January 6, shortly after the incident occurred.

“It is out of every rule of good navigation to dock a 54m tall ship, 275m long and with a capacity of 65,000 [gross tons] perfectly incident to the direction of the wind today – with an angle of 90 degrees – and especially considering the intensity of the wind, intensity confirmed for today and more meteorological models tomorrow as well.”

Multiple small craft in the yacht club are reportedly sunk because of the cruise ship’s impact, and docks destroyed. The full extent of the damage has not yet been confirmed.

Official Investigation to Follow

The Prosecutor’s Office of Syracuse has begun an official investigation into the incident in order to determine if there was negligence involved and who should be liable for damages.

It may take several weeks or months for the full investigation to be completed, as there will undoubtedly be study of the day’s weather patterns, what weather warnings or alerts were issued ahead of time, whether those warnings were properly communicated to the shipyard and cruise line officials, what actions were or were not taken, and the technical details of how the ship was moored.

MSC Sinfonia
MSC Sinfonia (Photo Credit: Roger Utting)

MSC Sinfonia is scheduled to resume service from March 24, 2024, offering Mediterranean sailings. At this time, it is not known whether or not there has been any significant damage to the cruise ship that may delay her return to service.

Guests booked on upcoming sailings of MSC Sinfonia will want to stay in close contact with the cruise line in case there are any adjustments or cancellations.

The MSC Cruises’ ship is not the only cruise ship to have broken mooring lines recently. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima broke free of her lines the day before the incident with MSC Sinfonia, on January 5, 2024, while debarking guests in Galveston, Texas. Fortunately, no one was injured in that incident either, but debarkation was delayed for approximately two hours.

As the two mooring incidents happened 6,000 miles (9,650 kilometers) apart, they are unrelated, but it does demonstrate that strong winds and foul weather can impact cruise ships anywhere in the world.

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