January 20, 2012
Only a few short hours into the voyage on Friday, January 13, 2012, the cruise ship Costa Concordia hit a reef near the Tuscan island of Giglio. Witness accounts indicated that as the ship neared the island, Captain Francesco Schettino ordered the crew to turnabout, but it was too late. The ship ran aground making this a disaster on an extraordinary scale. The Costa Concordia had approximately 4200 passengers onboard at the time of the incident – 11 are confirmed dead and at least 21 more are confirmed still missing.
Apparently, as shown in the following YouTube video, Captain Schettino had done this same maneuver in August 2011: Costa Concordia passes 230m from Giglio during salute prior to accident on January 13, 2012. These types of “salutes” are not completely uncommon and are most often referred to as a “fly by”; however, cruise ships of this size do not usually participate in such reckless behaviors.
Chief Executive Officer, Pier Luigi Foschi of Carnival Corp.’s Costa Crociere, the owner operator of the Costa Concordia, has made several statements to the media indicating that the captain had taken “unapproved, unauthorized, unknown to Costa’’ maneuvers that were “contrary to our written rules of behavior”. According to media reports the Captain Drove Cruise Ship Cost Concordia ‘Like a Ferrari’ and acted in a negligent manner.
Captain Schettino was initially jailed after leaving the ship and is now being held under house arrest at his home in Meta di Sorrento, Naples while under investigation for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship. Captain Schettino is accused of fleeing the ship prior to completion of the passenger and crew evacuations. According to Livorno Port Authority, Chief Gregorio De Falco instructed Captain Schettino to return to the ship multiple times in order to provide assistance to passengers attempting to evacuate the ship on rescue crafts. The Coast Guard believes that Captain Schettino never went back to the ship. Reports also indicate that after Chief De Falco ordered him to return to the ship, Captain Schettino stated that he tripped and accidently fell into a rescue craft.
Aside from the questions surrounding the Captain’s actions during the evacuation, investigators are trying to determine why Captain Schettino waited 73 minutes to sound the ship’s evacuation alarms and why worried passengers, not the Captain, made first contact with Italian police and Coast Guard officials. Still more reports indicate that the crew was instructing passengers, citing an electrical problem onboard, until shortly before the evacuation alarm sounded.
Rescue attempts were postponed for the 21 people still missing amidst growing concerns of the stability of the ship’s resting place. Divers resumed searching on Thursday but again suspended efforts when the ship began shifting on its rocky perch Friday. Rescue attempts in areas above the waterline did resume in the evening once the ship was deemed stable.
This is what Consolidated Consultants’ Longshore Safety Expert Witness has to say.
The grounding and subsequent capsizing of the M/V COSTA CONCORDIA will go down in history as one of the most ridiculous shipwrecks of all time.
Due to the extreme life hazard aboard such “superliners” and their extreme construction cost (450M euros in this case) extraordinary steps are taken to keep them from harm.
The following safety systems had to be by-passed:
- GPS Tracking that shows the ships position not only on the bridge but in several landside locations. Alarms sound when a superliner deviates from the set course. In these days of instant communications the ship should have been contacted when it deviated from the approved course with management demanding an explanation
- Anti-collision Radar on the bridge is set so that the ship stays a specified distance from other ships or navigational hazards. Alarms sound. The system had to be turned off.
- The captain is backed up by a Staff Captain, Chief Officer, Officer on Watch, and Safety Officer. Their primary job is the safety of the ship and passengers. They should never have allowed the captain to deviate from course, let alone navigate close to shore.
- The captain essentially did the same thing a few months ago. Click here to view the YouTube video. Management should have fired him then.
- There are bridge voice recorders, recordings of all radio transmissions, and recordings of all announcements made on the ship’s public address system. All of this evidence was available two weeks ago.
- There should have been reports of reckless navigation by the four officers mentioned above.
- As a rule harbor pilots are employed to guide ships close to land. They know about special winds and currents in the area. No captain ever approaches land without the services of a pilot. This officer broke every rule in the book.
- The local Coast Guard is the last line of defense. It is the agency charged with maintaining safe navigation. It monitors its territory with radar separate from the ship. They dropped the ball the first time the captain pulled his stunt. The dropped it again on the evening of the accident.
The accident reminds me of the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster. The operators consciously turned off all of the safety systems to see what would happen. They found out.
The same is true in this instance.
The ONLY thing that the captain did right was to get the ship aground a second time as close to land as possible before she went over. If he had stopped engines in deep water the death toll would have been in the thousands.
In recent days, Carnival Corp’s Costa Corciere has distanced itself from Captian Schettino announcing that they are no longer paying his legal fees and have signed on as a civil party in the prosecution against him. This move positions the company as an injured party and would allow them to seek damages in the event the Captain is found guilty.
In addition, Italy’s consumer association, Codacons, and two (2) US law firms have already announced to the BBC that they plan to file suit against Costa Cruises on behalf of the cruiseline’s passengers. Attorneys have stated that they plan to seek $160,000 for each passenger to cover things like medical expenses and psychological suffering. Attorneys have also stated that they believe that US courts will accept the case even though passengers are thought to have signed contracts giving jurisdiction to the Italian courts.
As more details emerge, the circumstances surrounding this ill-fated Costa Concordia voyage seem to lead to more questions. Did the captain mislead company officials? Why wasn’t accurate information provided to the Coast Guard? Why didn’t the Captain remain onboard to oversee evacuation efforts? What happened in the minutes prior to the ship running aground? How many casualties could have been prevented? Who is responsible for the loss of life?