In the early morning hours of Sunday, 28 December 2014, a fire broke up in the garage of the ro-ro ship NORMAN ATLANTIC, of Italian flag and registry, while sailing in the Adriatic from Patra, Greece, to Italy via Igoumenitsa. After very long coordinated operations of the Italian and Greek authorities, by rescue means by air and sea, it has finally been possible to rescue the majority of the ship’s passengers and crew, who had waited for hours on the upper deck in order to escape the fire that was unrestrictedly burning the lower parts of the vessel. Unfortunately not all passengers were saved. It has already been officially reported that there are at least ten deceased passengers, whilst the fact that possibly persons have been onboard who have not been part of the shipowning company passengers’ list and there have been reports by survivors that truck drivers had been sleeping in their vehicles when the fire started, increases the fears that the deceased number will raise. Search is continuing both in the surrounding sea area as well as inside the burning ship.

The ship NORMAN ATLANTIC is owned by the Italian company VISEMAR DI NAVIGAZIONE SRL, with address Via Romea 44, 45914 Porto Viro RO and has been leased to the Greek company ANEK. It is followed up for its seaworthiness by the classification society RINA and has been insured for its civil liability, including injuries/death of passengers and crew with the norwegian GARD P & I Club.

Much is reported already in the media with relation to factors and defects of the vessel that may possibly have contributed to the maritime tragedy, as it has developed. These are issues that have to be examined and researched carefully in the immediate future by expert technical and legal consultants of the victims, because they may play a role in the determination of the extent and nature of the possible liability of the shipowners, the managers and those persons who are responsible for the safety of the ship and the crew. Between others, must be examined the reported recent deficiencies that had been verified by the authorities concerning safety equipment and procedures, the causes of the fire in the garage, the reasons for the inability of the ship to respond to the fire by its own means and restrict it effectively, the discrepancies in the passengers’ coordination, the fact that unlisted persons were onboard, including eventually illegal immigrants hiding in the garage, etc.

The Italian judicial authorities have already filed criminal charges against the master and the owner of the ship NORMAN ATLANTIC.

The passengers who have been rescued, who have gone through an indescribable situation and risk of their life and who have lost their belongings including their cars and trucks, the crew members, as well the families of those who lost their beloved in this incident, have possibly considerable rights for compensation. The extent and nature of their rights will greatly depend on the thorough and expert examination of the possible defects of the ship and of the procedures, as well as by their expert pursuance in the most favorable forum (Italy, Greece or other) and based on specific laws and international regulations that rule the carriage of passengers by sea.

The international network of lawyers, experts in the representation of accidents’ victims, Global Justice Network (see, to which our office is a member, has already received calls from survivors of the NORMAN ATLANTIC, to whom we are giving advice on the actions they must take. Law firms members of the Global Justice Network, have expert knowledge and considerable experience in the handling of maritime accidents and have represented large groups in multi-victims’ ships’ accidents, including:

-    the most complex maritime accident in the Italian judicial system, the AL SALAM BOCCACIO sinking in the Red Sea,

-    the EXPRESS SAMINA sinking in the Aegean Sea,

-    the sinking of the cruise-ship SEA DIAMOND,

-    the sinking of the cruise-ship COSTA CONCORDIA,

-    the major maritime tragedy of the DONA PAZ, also by fire,

-    the multi-deaths fire onboard the AEGEAN WIND, and others.

Based on the experience and the expert knowledge in maritime accidents, the Global Justice Network would like to advise the victims of the NORMAN ATLANTIC accident that they should not hurry to proceed to actions neither to make statements regarding their losses and damages and to seek expert legal advice and assistance in order to be informed about all aspects of this case and their rights for compensation before taking any decision. The lawyers members of the Global Justice Network are ready to answer initial questions and inquiries.