Costa Concordia, Final Report: The Captain Did It

Costa ConcordiaCosta Concordia grounded off the coast of Italy in January 2012, where the cruise ship still sits today. Removal of the ship is a well-defined work in progress, now over halfway complete. Placing blame for the grounding, which resulted in the death of 32 people, is also coming into focus. Last week, Italian maritime authorities released a 176-page official report that documents much of what we already knew and verifies some suspicions.

Captain Francesco Schettino, 53, is blamed for causing the accident and delaying the evacuation. He is charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship. The report verifies that Schettino was in command of the vessel when it hit rocks off the coast of Tuscany.

OK, Maybe I Did Not Fall Into A Life Boat
Initially, Schettino had said that he “tripped and fell into a life boat,” rather than abandoning his ship. It was a claim he stuck to for months, vowing to clear his name.

“Soon I will reveal the shocking truth,” said Schettino in our report Captain Of Wrecked Cruise Ship Cries Foul, Says He’s Innocent. “And then all those people who denigrated me will have to apologize, not to me but to the families of the victims and to the public, which was conned with false information.”

That apology probably won’t be coming any time soon. According to the report, Schettino boarded a lifeboat leaving 300 passengers on board and was on land while 80 people were still on the ship, fighting for their lives.

The Captain Is Responsible, Like It Or Not
The report also highlights some serious communication problems, tagging Schettino for blame. One of he most serious: the Italian Coast Guard was not advised of the grounding by the ship, finding out only after being advised by a passenger’s mother.

Other elements of the incident, directly attributable to Schettino:

  • The grounding happened by sailing too fast and too close to shore
  • Delayed sounding the general alarm
  • Unauthorized people on the bridge were distracting him
  • Failed to consult large scale maps, causing him to use the wrong landmark on the island of Giglio to turn the ship
  • Minimized the seriousness of the accident to the coast guard

At one point in the aftermath of the Costa Concordia grounding, Schettino insisted that he saved thousands of lives by steering the ship toward shore where it eventually grounded. According to the detailed report, that would not have been possible as the ship’s rudder was not working at the time.

Other officers on Costa Concordia at the time have alleged blame too, mainly for allowing Schettino to make misleading “everything is just fine” announcements to passengers. His business-as-usual attitude apparently caused crew members to lose valuable time performing emergency duties.

Schettino denies the charges, but in May it was decided that there was enough evidence to try him for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship while 4,200 passengers and crew were still aboard.

On the bright side, cruise travel has never been safer.

Right after the grounding of Costa Concordia, cruise lines worldwide took a detailed look at safety procedures in an industry-wide Operational Safety Review then a Preparedness Risk Assessment in 2013, bringing new rules and procedures that were universally adopted by all major lines. A new Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights came out in May that details generally accepted procedures cruise travelers may not have known about.

Schettino will be the only defendant in a trial, which will begin on July 9 in Italy.

Want to see Costa Concordia, as it is today? Check out this recent video:

The Legacy of Titanic- A bright future for cruising

The legacy of titanic
Today’s cruise industry exists and operates in many ways as a result of the Titanic tragedy. This week we take a look at the legacy left behind in ways that affect cruise passengers on every sailing of every ship.

In the whole business of safety at sea, there are several major players and topics to consider. In today’s world, modern ship technology aims to prevent another tragedy like Titanic from ever happening again. But also in today’s world, security surrounding ships in port and at sea has come clearly into focus to address a threat of terrorism not thought of in the days of Titanic.

“The cruise industry’s highest priority is to ensure the safety and security of their passengers, crew and vessels” says the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise association, dedicated to the promotion and growth of the cruise industry. CLIA is composed of 26 of the major cruise lines serving North America and is an organization that operates pursuant to an agreement filed with the Federal Maritime Commission under the Shipping Act of 1984 and serves as a non-governmental consultative organization to the International Maritime Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

But long before CLIA, International Convention for the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) was a treaty passed in 1914 in answer to the sinking of the Titanic. It addressed the lifeboat issue along with specifying emergency equipment and procedures including radio watches.

Today’s cruise ships meet or exceed increasingly more stringent safety standards set before them. Cruise lines today are engaging technology like never before too.

Celebrity Cruises recently rolled out a new design of ship built from not the passenger’s point-of-view like Titanic but from the hull up. A new teflon-like coating on the hull reduces fuel consumption by allowing the ship to sail more smoothly through the water.

Cruise ships are “plugging in” when docked too. The Port of Los Angeles recently became the first with the ability to provide shoreside power to three different cruise lines. Using the Alternative Maritime Power system, ships from Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line can now turn off their polluting engines while in port.

On the matter of security, cruise ships give safety in this area high priority as well.

“Security procedures include the 100 percent inspection of all passengers, their carry-on baggage and luggage. Each crew member holds a U.S. seafarers visa and has thus undergone a U.S. State Department background check prior to visa issuance. In addition, all crew members and guests are placed on an official manifest and may embark and disembark only after passing through a security checkpoint. Once a ship is underway, only documented employees and fare-paying passengers are on board” adds CLIA.

We often focus on flashy events like Kid Rock hosting a theme cruise, a new emphasis on fitness at sea or tips for those about to go on a cruise. But at the end of the day, all hoopla aside, these are still very large ocean-going vessels that often sail very far away from the safety of land.

You better believe cruise lines have safety as their top priority.

Even with today’s modern technology, even with all we know and have learned since Titanic, even today’s cruise ships are no match for an angry mother nature.

Flickr photo by Mecookie

The Legacy of Titanic- Cruise Lines learn about reality

The Legacy of Titanic
Today’s cruise industry exists and operates as it does in many ways as a result of the Titanic tragedy. This week we take a look at the legacy left behind in ways that affect cruise passengers on every sailing of every ship.

Titanic was the most advanced vessel of her day. Built with the best technology of the time, White Star Line which owned the ship thought her unsinkable.

Titanic was designed to compete with Cunard Line’s Lusitania and Mauretania and focused on high-end luxury travel, very much as depicted in the movie Titanic.

Out of 840 staterooms, almost half were first-class accommodations. The ship was built for pleasure and beauty. It was filling that order which would contribute to the loss of life just days after launching Titanic. The ship was designed to hold 32 lifeboats but only 20 were on board.

Cruise line management thought too many lifeboats would take away from the beauty of the ship. The 20 lifeboats on board Titanic could carry a total of 1,178 of the 3,547 the ship might have if fully loaded.

On that tragic night in 1912 when Titanic sank, the SS Californian was the closest ship to Titanic and many believe it could have easily rescued all on board. Unfortunately, the radio operator went to sleep not long before Titanic started broadcasting emergency distress messages.

After the Titanic sinking, ships were required to have enough lifeboats for everyone on the ship. Existing ships were refitted in a variety of ways and ship design changed to address safety issues.

The International Convention for the Safety of Life A Sea (SOLAS) is a treaty passed in 1914 in answer to the sinking of the Titanic. It addressed the lifeboat issue along with specifying emergency equipment and procedures including radio watches.

Today, advanced weather forecasting and navigational equipment on cruise ships take advantage of the great strides made possible by modern technology. GPS monitoring allows cruise lines to know where cruise ships are at all times. On-board video surveillance systems keep track of passengers and crew and are often called upon to solve cases of crime at sea.

Join us tomorrow as we take a look at one of the key figures in the Legacy of Titanic, the Captain of the ship. We’ll explore the Captain’s role then and now as more cruise ships sail more itineraries in more parts of the world than ever before.

Flickr photo by formatc1