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Stolt-Nielsen to pay MSC US$290 million to settle MSC Flaminia claim

Norwegian chemical shipping group Stolt-Nielsen will pay US$290 million to MSC to settle claims resulting from the fatal explosion that claimed the lives of three crew members on MSC Flaminia in 2012.

The parties informed the US courts this week that the matter has been settled. While the terms are confidential, the settlement amount was disclosed in Stolt-Nielsen’s 1Q 2024 results, which stated that the Norwegian company received US$133 million from its insurers to partially settle the MSC Flaminia claim.

On 14 July 2012, the 2001-built 6,732 TEU MSC Flaminia was sailing from Charleston, US, to Antwerp, Belgium, when a fire broke out in cargo hold #4. Stolt Tank Containers had 29 tank containers loaded on the ship, and three of these, containing divinylbenzene were in the aforementioned cargo hold.

When the crew attempted to extinguish the flames, an explosion occurred. Twenty other crew members were rescued.

The divinylbenzene was manufactured by US-based Deltech. MSC blamed Deltech and Stolt, saying the cargo risks were not fully declared. Divinylbenzene can explode when exposed to heat.

In 2018, New York courts ruled that Deltech and Stolt had liabilities of 55% and 45%, respectively. However, Deltech and Stolt appealed, delaying the payouts. Furthermore, German tonnage provider Conti Reederei, the owner of the MSC Flaminia, also sought compensation from MSC, whose efforts to cap its liability under the 1976 Convention on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims failed. In 2021, London arbitrators awarded Conti US$200 million, as MSC was held liable for costs arising from the accident and lost revenue while the vessel was out of service.

In July 2023, the US appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling on the liabilities to be borne by Deltech and Stolt.

MSC Flaminia underwent intensive repairs and resumed service in 2014; the ship remains owned by Conti and has been renamed CMA CGM San Francisco, having been chartered to the French line since 2021.

Martina Li
Asia Correspondent

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