M/V Tito Campanella, the story of a shipwreck: rust, weapons and waste


It was January 14, 1984. Cargo ship, 13,342 gross tons, the company Alframar Savona disappears into the waters of the Bay of Biscay. On board 23 men and one woman. sinking investigation

An “Act of God ” . This term is used by seafarers to define a tragedy caused by forces of nature or simply a cruel fate . Other times it happens that the sailors doom is added to the carelessness of the men who make the inevitable misfortune. There are many disasters that occurred in the sea for a concurrence of causes , too many to remember the day of their anniversary , even if only by a small newspaper article . But there is one in particular that the Italian merchant marine certainly will not ever forget.
It was January 14, 1984 , just thirty years ago. In the Atlantic Ocean there was a storm with waves ten meters and sea force 8 . Italian Cargo ship  Tito Campanella , 13,342 gross tons , owned by Alframar of Savona, disappeared into the waters of the Bay of Biscay. On board were 23 men and one woman (Alga Soligo Malfatti , First Officer and Commander’s wife ) ; in the hold more than 20,000 tons of metal sheets expected to Eleusis , Greece.
A shipwreck whose dynamics remained obscure for a long time , because no witnesses and no survivors. What happens to that unfortunate day in the icy waters of the Atlantic ? Arguably, the load carried on board the freighter in the Swedish port of Oxolesund , just a week before the tragedy, had been stowed bad. This at least was the conclusion at which it has been  arrived in 1986 by the Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Administrative Secretary of the Merchant Navy: the Tito Campanella sank because of ” the movement of the load .” A ” cart full of rust ”
” It seems certain ,” Newspaper UNITA’ wrote on January 26, 1984, “the Tito Campanella was rundown and not reliable .” A judgment which is not surprising given that a Swedish expert in December 1983 signed a report in which it was said : “The ship has many deformations in all holds , interesting structures and transverse bulkheads .” In addition, as she supported the Commission of Inquiry , the telegraph station on board was run down , the staff on board and insufficient means of rescue were old.
Other doubts about the state certainly not perfect from the merchant also arrived by Raffaella Golden , daughter of John Golden , Radio Officer on Tito Campanella. In an interview published in La Stampa Sera she made ​​public the last letter of his father : “I wrote the December 28 Oxolesund from where Tito Campanella had made ​​a stop , before returning to Piraeus ” – told the woman – ” I received it while I was on vacation in the mountains January 14 , the day on which the ship broke off its radio communications. Read . My dad humor, knows how to accept every situation , she would not be alarmed , but by every word leaked despair . “

In the words written by John Golden missing ship was described as a kind of floating debris : antennas torn by the wind, radar out of service, a roll which made it difficult to stand. “I try to fix what I can with spare parts, I seem to be back boy and play pirates ,” wrote the Radio Operator on the eve of the disaster. Yet, despite all this, the Italian Naval Registry released cleared the use of the ship , which was in fact re-commissioning after eleven months of disarmament . “Why Tito Campanella was allowed to sail ? ” Asked through her tears the families of the missing sailors .

A tragic Rondò
On the net you can also read the testimony of a sailor aboard the Tito Campanella and miraculously survived the shipwreck : ” I ​​boarded in Rotterdam in December. Even the sight of the ship was a whole program , certainly for people like me who came from the cruise ships. You can not say that the ship was in great shape at the time … The ship was loading phosphate in the port of Casablanca, Morocco , and they unloaded in the port of Rotterdam. The journey was rather stormy , the sea along that path is almost always rough and the ship was tossed from side to side by the waves. Yet in retrospect, despite everything, I did not imagine what would have happened then … “.
However, battered or not, Tito Campanella left Sweden on the morning of January 7, 1984, four days after he made refueling in a Belgian port, before returning to the sea for the last time . On day 13 , when the cargo was 150 miles from the north-western tip of the Iberian Peninsula , the Commander Luigi Mirrors from Viareggio got in touch with the owner in Savona : “All well on board , the sea is rough but not more force 6. ”
Then came that night nightmare storm in the Atlantic . Everything happened in a flash, probably off Cape Finisterre. The force of the waves married sheets that spilled on the weak side of the ship , breaking the rusty hull like butter . The Tito Campanella sank, others than the crew on duty on the bridge might not even realize that the end was near .
The day after the tragedy the italian TV made a special reportage,” during the News and as reported by many Radio Officers for more than one day the Italian Coast Radio Station – ROME RADIO – IAR- broadcasts on HF bands to all ships in the area of  the disaster to keep an accurate look out reporting any kind of  floating things…none has been reported to Italian Authorities.

Sinking judicial investigation
The first-instance of judgment about the sinking of Tito Campanella arrived after six years. In 1990, the judges of the Court of Savona sentenced after 1 year and 8 months for multiple murder and culpable disaster one of the members of the  vessel’s Company , an inspector of Rina , the commander of the port of Oxelesung and the leader of the team that carried out the operations cargo on the ship . According to the results of several Surveys  required by the Court of Savona in fact, Tito Campanella was in no condition to make the journey from Sweden to Greece because its facilities were compromised. They were acquitted for “not having committed the crime,” eight other defendants.
In the grounds of the judgment (one hundred typewritten pages ) judges wrote : “Two circumstances have great prominence : Failure sending distress signals and the failure to find wrecks. The sinking of the ship was sudden and immediate. Sending signals rescue operation that takes seconds and is to be excluded due to the inability to avail of the special system failure as the crew could use other connection options in addition to the usual ones . The Tito Campanella sank in a fraction of time limited . ” To this regard to the assumptions that led to the sinking says: ” Assuming that the drowning occurred when it (the ship nda) came to be in the worst weather conditions , the lethal event would not have happened without the list due to the displacement of the load “.
He spent another year , the seventh since the disappearance of the ship, and in January of 1991, the judges of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal of Genoa this time acquitted all the accused in the process. “There are not responsible for the sinking of Tito Campanella ,”

The Second Mate who left the ship at the end of the trip before the LAST… took the following pictures really impressed by the conditions of the ship…more than a TRAMPER…no comments about the following pictures:








MRD 2014 ” a point of view” by R/O Nino Paglialonga now IZ7DJR

Dear Sparks,

yesterday evening I received an e-mail from our colleague R/O Nino Paglialonga who agree with many other colleaugues, the Maritime Radio Day is our yearly Event, about 30 hours on HF bands with our last ship or coast radio callsigns from which  we have operated but… very few images and comments after the Event and we must to wait 365 days to come back “on the air” for a new Edition of the MRD. We have the possibility to use this website to post comments, pictures and much more, it could be a way to establish a link between us also to write our stories and to say “WHY” we continue to use and support Morse Code. Nino expressed me his regrets because a large part of Countries outside Europe still no take part at the Event…


M/V FURIA, one of the ships where Nino worked as R/O

m_v furia

M/V FURIA in Heavy sea

Onno DL4BCE at  DAN 1982 watchkeeping 16 MHz CW

DL0DAN special C/S for Nordeicch Radio by Onno & crew

Our Colleague Onno Heyen – DL4BCE – commented saying this year we had a Very Nice MRD. Onno,  who has  worked for several years in Nordeicch Radio, has been active during MRD 2014 with his Team operating the special callsign DL0DAN, yesss…the suffux it is DAN, one of the magnificient Coast Radio Station of North Europe.

Onno sent me his picture (year 1982) while he was on watch on 16 MHz at NORDEICCH.


MRD Staff