San Francisco sues Princess Cruise Lines, tugboat company over 2019 port accident

San Francisco is seeking more than $1 million in damages from Princess Cruise Lines and another company for a 2019 port accident when an incoming cruise ship apparently derailed and overturned a tugboat on the pier, smashing three of its concrete support pillars.

The cruise line and BayDelta Maritime, which had leased the pier property from the city, were negligent in positioning the two boats while docking, the city alleged in a lawsuit filed in federal court. last week.

The Star Princess liner, since renamed Pacific Encounter, docked in San Francisco one morning in October 2019. The lawsuit said winds were light and visibility was clear.

The liner was bound for Pier 27, and a dockside tug, the Delta Cathryn, operated by BayDelta Maritime, attached to the stern of the liner to pull it to its assigned berth. Instead, according to the suit, the Star Princess struck the Delta Cathryn and pushed it into the edge of adjacent Pier 23, destroying three 18-inch vertical concrete support piers, damaging the pier deck and scattering fragments of the pier in San Francisco Bay.

Employees of the two companies “were not attentive to their duties and they failed to control the position and course” of the two vessels, City Attorney David Chiu’s office said in the lawsuit.

In a report by the Regional Board of Pilots Commissioners, Orrin Favro, who took over as captain of the Star Princess for mooring, said he was misled by the tug operator.

Favro said that while his vessel was being brought into landing position, he received a call from the tug saying, “Our stern is 20 feet from the dock.” He said he interpreted it, based on normal communications with tugs, to mean that the stern of the Star Princess was 20 feet from Pier 27, so he maneuvered the liner to move her stern farther from this dock. In fact, Favro said, the operator meant his own boat was 20 feet from Pier 23.

“The Delta Cathryn should have signaled her developing situation when her stern was about 50 feet from Pier 23 and closing in,” Favro said, according to the report. Shortly after, he said, he received another radio call from the operator saying, “We touched.”

“The operator’s tone was calm and gave no indication of a problem,” Favro said. “I took that to mean the tug had hit the side of the vessel” and not that it had collided with the pier.

The city told the companies in 2020 that the cost to investigate and repair the damage would be $1.164 million, but they refused to pay, according to the lawsuit. She seeks compensation for city costs, plus interest and legal fees.

Princess Cruise Lines declined to comment on the lawsuit. BayDelta Maritime did not respond to a request for comment.

Bob Egelko is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: begelko@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @BobEgelko

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