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Operators of the “Costa Concordia”

The operators of the “Costa Concordia” are facing questions over their share of the blame for the tragedy.

January 22nd, 2012 Posted by Skipper http://www.shiptalk.com/?p=10917

The operators of the “Costa Concordia” are facing questions over their share of the blame for the tragedy.

Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of steering the 290 metre-long cruise ship too close to shore while performing a manoeuvre known as a “salute” in which liners draw up very close to land to make a display.
Schettino, who is charged with multiple manslaughter and with abandoning ship before the evacuation of 4,200 passengers and crew was complete, has told prosecutors he had been instructed to perform the manoeuvre by operator Costa Cruises.

Prosecutors say he steered the massive ship within 150 metres of the Tuscan island of Giglio, where it struck a rock that tore a large gash in its hull, letting water flood in and causing the 114,500-tonne ship to capsize.

As the days have passed, there have been growing questions about the ultimate responsibility for the accident, which Costa Cruises has blamed on “unfortunate human error” and placed firmly on the shoulders of the captain. It has suspended Schettino and will not be paying his legal fees.
Costa chief executive Pier Luigi Foschi has said that ships sometimes engage in “tourist navigation” in which they approach the coast but that this is only done under safe conditions and he was not aware of any riskier approaches so close to the shore.
Costa is a unit of Carnival Corp, the world’s largest cruise line operator.
According to transcripts of his hearing with investigators leaked to Italian newspapers, Schettino told magistrates Costa had insisted on the manoeuvre to please passengers and attract publicity.
“It was planned, we were supposed to have done it a week earlier but it was not possible because of bad weather,” Schettino said, according to the Corriere della Sera daily.
“They insisted. They said: ‘We do tourist navigation, we have to be seen, get publicity and greet the island’.”
He said he had performed similar manoeuvres regularly over the past four months on the Costa Concordia and on other ships in the Costa fleet along the Italian coast line which is dotted with small islands that are popular with tourists.
“But we do it every time we do the Sorrento coast, Capri, we do it everywhere,” he said.
Foschi, who visited Giglio on Sunday, declined to respond to Schettino’s comments.
“As an investigation by magistrates is currently underway, we cannot give out any information,” he said.
Italian newspapers have also published photographs of the Costa Concordia apparently performing the “salute” close to other ports including Syracuse in Sicily and the island of Procida, which is near Naples and Schettino’s hometown of Meta di Sorrento.
Schettino said the fatal manoeuvre of Jan. 13 was originally intended to bring the ship half a mile from the shore, “but then we brought it to 0.28″ (of a nautical mile), he said.
Investigators have said the actual point of impact was much closer to the shore but establishing the exact sequence of events could be complicated by problems with the recording equipment used to track the ship’s progress.
Schettino said the black box on board had been broken for two weeks and he had asked for it to be repaired, in vain.
In the hearing, Schettino insisted he had informed Costa’s headquarters of the accident straight away and his line of conduct had been approved by the company’s marine operations director throughout a series of phone conversations.
He acknowledged, however, not raising the alarm with the coastguard promptly and delaying the evacuation order.
“You can’t evacuate people on lifeboats and then, if the ship doesn’t sink, say it was a joke. I don’t want to create panic and have people die for nothing,” he said.
Costa says Schettino lied to the company and his own crew about the scale of the emergency.
Documents from his hearing with a judge say he had shown “incredible carelessness” and a “total inability to manage the successive phases of the emergency”.
Taped conversations show ship’s officers told coastguards who were alerted by passengers that the vessel had only had a power cut, even after those on board donned lifevests.