Italian probe reveals third vessel involved in ferry disaster that killed over 100 in 1991

Italian probe reveals third vessel involved in ferry disaster that killed over 100 in 1991

Moby Prince in 1990 (Photo:

An investigating commission formed by some members of Italy’s parliament has published a report indicating that a third vessel was involved in a maritime incident that left 140 people dead in 1991.

The recently concluded parliamentary inquiry into the April 10, 1991 incident involving the Ro-Pax ferry Moby Prince and the oil tanker Agip Abruzzo stated that the presence of another vessel was a key factor that resulted in one of Italy’s deadliest maritime disasters since the end of World War II.

The report said the third vessel suddenly appeared directly ahead of Moby Prince as the ferry was manoeuvring to depart Livorno on a scheduled voyage on the said date.

Moby Prince made an abrupt left turn to avoid colliding with the unidentified vessel. However, the manoeuvre caused the ferry’s bow to strike the tanker Agip Abruzzo, which was at anchor at the time.

Moby Prince‘s bow eventually penetrated right through to one of Agip Abruzzo‘s cargo tanks, causing some of the light crude oil contained within to spill into the water and onto the ferry’s deck. The spilled oil then caught fire, and the ferry was engulfed in flames within minutes.

All but one of the 141 people who were on board the ferry perished in the incident, with many of them dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. The tanker’s crew, meanwhile, were all successfully rescued.

The subsequent rescue operation was also reportedly hampered by coordination problems. Additional government investigations over the years showed this factor to be among the main causes of the slow emergency response, which then led to further loss of life.

The parliamentary report could not identify the third vessel with certainty, though the report itself was approved unanimously by the members of the investigating commission.

The report also concluded that the area off Livorno where the incident occurred was experiencing calm seas and good visibility at the time.

The probe into the Moby Prince disaster was reopened by Italy’s parliament in July last year. Legislators decided on this action upon realising that the initial investigations conducted in the immediate aftermath of the incident did not identify its exact causes and therefore did not result in any convictions.

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