Venice crash liner's sister ship due in Belfast
The sister ship of an out-of-control cruise liner that rammed a river tourist boat in the Italian city of Venice is to dock in Belfast next week.
Italy's transport minister has called for cruise ships to be banned from using Venice's Giudecca Canal after the MSC Opera, apparently unable to halt its momentum, ploughed into a much smaller river boat and the dock as people fled in panic.
The Opera is the sister ship of the MSC Orchestra, which visited Belfast last month and is due again next Sunday.
In February the Orchestra collided with another MSC Cruises vessel, the Poesia, as it was departing Buenos Aires in Argentina. The Orchestra also hit a pier.
Both ships only suffered minor damage and were cleared to depart.
Danilo Toninelli said the Opera's accident in the port of Venice proves that cruise ships should no longer be allowed to pass down the Giudecca Canal.
"After many years of inertia, we are finally close to a solution to protect both the lagoon and tourism," the transport minister said.
Four female tourists were injured as they tried to run away when the cruise ship rammed the tourist boat.
The collision happened at about 8.30am yesterday on the Giudecca Canal, a major thoroughfare that leads to St Mark's Square.
Venice is a tremendously popular site for both tourists and cruise ships, especially during the summer season.
MSC Cruises said that the ship was about to dock at a passenger terminal when it suffered from a mechanical problem.
"Two towboats tried to stop the giant and then a tow cable broke, cut by the collision with the river boat," Davide Calderan, president of a towboat association in Venice, told the Italian news agency Ansa.
Mr Calderan said the cruise ship's engine was locked when the captain called for help.
The Opera weighs 65,591 tons and can accommodate 2,150 passengers and 728 crew.