Statement against criminalisation of inland navigation crewmembers

3 Mar 2020


The ITF and ETF Inland Navigation Sections are very concerned that the Captain of the Viking Sigyn faces a long prison sentence after the tragic accident on the river Danube in Budapest in May 2019.


Crewmembers, especially captains, are increasingly being prosecuted and criminalised when an accident occurs. It is normal that accidents attract a lot of public and media attention, which often leads to heightened political tension. Sadly, it often also results in states and authorities that are quick to blame the crewmembers even before an investigation has been conducted and concluded.

The fair treatment of seafarers has long been on the agenda at the IMO and for its Member States in regards to ocean-going vessels. The same should apply to inland navigation crews. All crewmembers should have the right to non-discriminatory proceedings without fear of retaliation.

In May 2019, a Swiss-flagged Viking Sigyn collided with Hableány, a 27-metre river cruiser carrying several tourists on the river Danube. On 13 March 2020, the preliminary hearing in the trial against the Ukrainian Captain will take place in Budapest.

The Captain has been imprisoned since the accident and faces nine years in prison if he accepts admission of guilt and up to 14 years in prison if the case goes to trial. The situation is further complicated by several false allegations in the media about the Captain.

The ITF and ETF Inland Navigation Sections are concerned about the case’s developments against the Captain and strongly oppose the criminalisation of crewmembers. Fair treatment should fully apply to the accused Captain.

The ITF and ETF urgently implore the Hungarian authorities to establish an independent inquiry commission and to ensure that the following issues be properly investigated and considered:


  • The working conditions on board both ships, including actual working hours, to determine if the Captains and crews suffered from fatigue;
  • The crews’ level of skill and competency;
  • Proof that the Captains could speak a common language or German as recommended by the Danube Commission;
  • Hourly traffic schedule of the Hableány for the need of a possible manoeuvre at the time of the collision;
  • Technical condition and seaworthiness of the Hableány – which was built in 1949;
  • Safety of navigation, taking into account the density of traffic during night cruises in Budapest;
  • The role of the Dispatcher Emergency and Information Center NAVINFO in Hungary responsible for the traffic control and measures taken following the collision;
  • Any statements regarding the accident from the Danube Commission responsible for regulating the navigation standards.