Genova - May 7 2013, at 23:05: while executing the manoeuvre to exit the port of Genoa, the engine of the cargo ship “Jolly Nero” went dead. Something went wrong, gave way, and that big ship smashed into the Control Tower, destroying it, and causing the death of nine people and injuring four.
Today, four years and 10 days following the tragedy, the Genoa court has sentenced the captain of the “Jolly Nero”, Roberto Paoloni, to 10 years and four months in jail, half the term sought by the prosecution (which had asked for a 20-year and six-month sentence); Genoa port pilot Antonio Anfossi received four years and two months (10 years and six months was the sentence sought by the prosecution); first officer Lorenzo Repetto received eight years and six months (the sentence recommended by the prosecution was 10 years and six months). Chief engineer, Franco Giammoro, received a seven year jail sentence (the prosecution had asked for a 10 year-and-six month sentence). The four men were found guilty of multiple culpable homicide, and causing a building collapse.The court acquitted Giampaolo Olmetti, a director of Messina & C (the prosecution had requested a 17-year sentence), and Cristina Vaccaro, third officer of the cargo vessel (an eight-month sentence was initially requested).
Ignazio Messina & C. was held responsible only of administrative misconduct, and ordered to pay a fine of €1,050,000, while the prosecution had originally requested that the company be sentenced with a one-year receivership, with profits devolved to the State, and a fine of €2,250,000.
The relatives of the victims will receive close to €6,000,000 in damages, to be paid by Paoloni, Anfossi, Repetto and Giammoro, with legal representation by Messina & C. A total of €5 million in damages was awarded to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, as well as €6,500,000 to the Ministry of Defence, and €3 million to the Ministry of Economy.
Some of the images of the tragedy that persist in the collective memory are those of the coffins lined up in the Captaincy Square, the empty space that a few days later received the remains of sergeant Jacoviello, and the hands from a statue of the Madonna that was found amidst the debris. And part of a conversation by Paoloni recorded in the ship’s black box: “It’s nothing, I just smashed the control tower ... they’re probably all dead.” Yes, they were indeed all dead. On 15 May, a state funeral was held, in the presence of then President Giorgio Napolitano. Then followed the enquiry to determine responsibilities, which led to a difficult and complex process. But today’s ruling does not exhaust the search for truth.
There are two more ongoing inquiries: one regards the construction of the Tower in that particular location, an investigation that has already produced two indictments; and the second one which focuses on certain naval inspectors on behalf of Rina, the firm that certified ships for the Messina company. The episode of the port of Genoa’s Control Tower, destroyed by the cargo ship “Jolly Nero”, is not over yet.