Costa Concordia disaster

April 22 The contract for the salvage of the "Costa Concordia" was given to Titan Salvage from Florida jointly with Italian Micoperi. The projects of the six bidders were all of high quality, a technical committee of the company said on Apr 21. The proposal from Titan and Micoperi, however, meet the requirements such as environmental protection and tourism on Giglio best. If the Italian government agrees, the work will start in May. Titan and Micoperi ensured that the leaking vessel may float again within 12 months. The salvors will not work from Giglio so that tourism will not be disturbed, but store their equipment on the mainland in Civitavecchia. The wreck will, once floating, pulled to a port fro dismantling. The three ports for that purpose are Livorno, Palermo and Genoa. After removal of the ship, the sea bottom will be cleaned and plant life in the protected landscape, repaired. The American-Italian plan is meeting high safety and low risk to the environment. Costa Crociere engineers their choice were assisted by external experts.

Costa Concordia was sailing on a cruise across the Mediterranean Sea, starting from Civitavecchia with scheduled calls to Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Cagliari and Palermo.On the night of 13 January 2012, at around 2145 local time (UTC+1), Costa Concordia hit a rock off Isola del Giglio (42 21 55N 10 55 17E). A 50-metre (160 ft) long gash was later found to have been made in the lower hull, along 5 compartments of the engine room; consequently, power to the motors and hotel services was cut. With water rushing in, the vessel started to list to port. The ship reversed course but was now listing heavily to starboard. The ship drifted back and grounded near shore, then capsized halfway, on the starboard side in an unsteady position on a rocky underwater ledge. Almost half of the ship remained above water.
She was carrying 3,229 passengers and 1,023 crew members, all but 32 of whom were rescued; as of 22 February 2012, twenty-five bodies had been found, with seven people known to be missing. The 7 names unaccounted for include one unidentified body and are presumed dead. There may have been other people not listed on board. The search for bodies was abandoned at the end of January.
All lifeboats were docked before dawn.An investigation, not completed as of 9 February 2012, focused on shortcomings in the procedures followed by the crew and the actions of the captain, who left the ship after the first hour of 6 hours of evacuation. About 300 passengers were left onboard, and there were not enough lifeboats for them, so most of them were rescued by helicopter or motorboats in the area.
Salvage experts Smit International were called in to assess removing the ship and its 2,380 tonnes of fuel. The salvage operation could take up to ten months, and the ship may be a constructive total loss.

Cruise liner Costa Concordia IMO 9320544, GRT 114500, flag Italy. Launched: 2 September 2005. Christened: 7 July 2006. Speed: 19.6 knots service, 23 knots maximum. Passenger capacity 3700, crew 1100. Owner: Carnival Corporation. Operator: Costa Crociere.

Costa Concordia disaster was predetermined by the Costa Company safety practice

The public mess sparked by Costa Concordia disaster is quickly turning into tabloid scandal with fervent discussions about the mystical women and Captain Francesco Schettinos sexual preferences. Hes already recognized as the main and only one person responsible for the disaster, hes already nicknamed Captain Coward, one may only wonder why nobody yet turned to good old Freud, and didnt enlighten us, ignorant flock, on a direct connection between Francesco Schettinos puberty period and the accident.

The Costa Company is more than happy with general recognition of Francesco Schettino as the main and only culprit, because its vitally important for the Company to make the disaster look like an accident, caused by irresponsible behaviour of one man only. The strategy of the Companys defence is absolutely clear, theres one and only one person to blame, Costas liners were and are safe, there is nothing to worry about, Costa is ready to pay for the mistake of making Mr. Francesco Schettino the Captain of one of their flagships. Is it really so?

Lloyds List published the AIS records, revealing rather unpleasant for the Costa CEOs fact the liner in question was sailing dangerously close to navigational hazards at least once before, with, as it seems, full approval of the Company, or at least, lack of any response to such an outrageous navigation. Maritime Bulletin received a lot of other information, brining to light some very serious flaws in Companys Maritime Safety practice. An engineer with 5 years experience of working on liners of Carnival Corporation wrote:

There are only two persons on the bridge during daytime, an officer and a lookout, at night time there is an extra officer. From my experience and impressions, Italian officers lack the discipline and responsibility, their behaviour is often erratic and non-professional, theyre making a show out of their job, not doing their job. Costa Company apparently, doesnt have the system of check and control of navigational practice on board of their liners, creating a rich soil for a malpractice and general flippancy of many Companys senior officers. See photos below.

There was a serious accident with on of Costas liners in year 2010, which was written off as unexplained.

In the morning hours Oct 18 in Yangtze estuary, China, cruise liner Costa Classica collided with Belgian capesize bulk carrier Lowlands Longevity. Liner was damaged, three passengers got light injures. Both vessels were directed to Shanghai for investigation.

The chief engineer of bulk carrier Lowlands Longevity shared with me, after Costa Concordia disaster, his knowledge of Classica vs. Lowlands Longevity accident:

Mikhail, please look through these photos of the consequences of the collision between my ship and Costa Classica. Liner overrun us, moved across and finally, as a result of dangerous approach, brushed her starboard against our anchor. Anchor cut them like a knife cut sardines tin. There were injured passengers, all passengers had to be disembarked in port, Costa paid compensations to passengers and our repairs, too.

I have to choose between political correctness and maritime safety to analyze Costas officers, and I vote for safety. Many people engaged in shipping, first of all seafarers, hold rather poor opinion of Italian officers maritime skills, mainly due to their excessive flamboyancy and lightness of mind. Mingled with the state-of-art electronic equipment on the bridge and lack of control on behalf of a Company, inadequacy of Italian navigation officers made disaster inevitable, it was only the question of time, place, character of accident and the exact liner. Officers on bridges of Costas liners enjoy themselves with computer simulators, thats exactly what bridges of modern mega-liners do resemble. Giant ship sailing on autopilot which is guided by GPS and ECDIS in waters full of navigational hazards, dangerously close to coast and to overcrowded shipping lanes, is sure to run into trouble, sooner or later. Big enough yaw by autopilot may lead to grounding or collision, while officers navigate vessel not by physical observations, but by watching almost wholly automatic process on electronic displays.
Liners of Costa company, with the existing practice of their navigation and command, may be considered as risky for passengers, as Titanic sailing in iceberg infested waters.

Lets now analyze the behaviour of the captain of Costa Concordia, because there are enough riddles and unexplained facts to doubt his misdemeanour. There is one fact for starts, which is absolutely unacceptable for me. The whole disaster is sharply divided into two periods. One period lies in a time range between the time of decision to change the course, and time of hitting the rocks; another period is all what happened after the collision. The first period can be explained in detail by only three persons in the whole world, the three persons who were present on the bridge of Costa Concordia during the decisive time before collision, one was captain, other two were unnamed assistants. We dont have yet a chronology of the events on the bridge during last 20-30 minutes before collision. Why, I wonder? Its much more simple task, than collecting heaps of evidences given by literally, thousands of passengers and crew, each evidence contradicting the others. Whatever those evidence are, they just cant explain the main riddle why, how and when exactly Captain ordered fatal change of the course. Those three persons on the bridge were professionals in the line of duty, not scared or angry passengers. Chronology of the events prior to collision may look like this:
time two duty crewmembers on the bridge, details of vessels course and speed, scheduled time of keeping that course and speed before a turn point or changing speed; location of the Captain, whether is in bar or whenever else;
time Captain enters the bridge and checks charts and control panels;
time Captain orders course change, following the order with at least minimal explanation of his decision;
time collision with the rocks.
Such a timetable should be accompanied with screenshots of ECDIS and paper charts, with all timed observations, courses, speed and other remarks, if any. Why dont we have such a 3-4 pages long evidence yet, is anyones guess.

There is a reconstruction of liner movements after the collision with rocks,. It may be assumed, looking at a pic below, that captain made the only correct choice when he guided mortally wounded vessel to shallow waters. Its hard to imagine, what could happen, if liner would sink in deep waters, without the cushion of a sandbank. He didnt fail his captains duty, he didnt panic, he commanded the vessel in the only possible way, or at least, it looks like it. Maybe, his decisions and maneuverings saved hundreds or thousands of lives, we dont know yet, as nobody among concerned and responsible parties bothered himself with the analyze of captains post collision commands. Well, of course we should keep in mind, that whether he was right or wrong in his behaviour after the collision, hes the main to blame for the accident, in the first place. Still, judging from what facts we have, we may assume, that captain didnt panic and was as professional, as any could be in his position.

Public and media blame captain for his desertion of the vessel before evacuation was over, tone of the accusations raised to hysterical after publicizing his very emotional radio talks with Italian Coast Guard. Is it all that simple? There are postulates which public accepts as pillars of the world, as facts which dont require any proof, among them the dogma Captain is the last to leave the sinking vessel. Its his duty and his honor, everybody will say if asked. Well, it is not so, if speaking about quite a unique operation of evacuating thousands of unprepared for any emergency passengers from a giant cruise liner. The captains duty and honor is not the crap from movies and books about being the last to leave the vessel, his duty is to do everything possible to save the passengers and crew in a most effective way. Maybe it was most sensible and effective to monitor and command evacuation being not aboard, but in a boat positioned so as to give the captain the best overview of the vessel and lifeboats deck. I dont know if there is such a place on board of a listing mega-liner, but I doubt that such a place exists.

With all the grievances and regrets as to the lost lives, evacuation is to be considered a success, taking into account the sheer number of people on board, night time and rapidly growing list. There wasnt panic, or else wed still be busy counting hundreds of killed and maimed in the stampede. We should assume then, that the evacuation was orchestrated by somebody by whom, if not by the captain? No answers are given yet.

Costa company is sacrificing Francesco Schettino in order to minimize its losses. But he isnt the one who is responsible for a wide-spread practice of negligence and failure to provide the fundamentals of maritime safety on board of Costa cruise liners.

Voytenko Mikhail
Jan 22 2012