Concordia – What We Finally Know
Written by: Paul Motter
We now know the ship DID hit the rocks during the sail-by just outside the two Le Scole reef islands. This did NOT seem likely earlier since no one reported the damage when it occurred – highly unusual. In fact, nailing down the timeline in this incident has been the hardest part.
According to Costa the captain was on the bridge at the time the rock was hit. But the captain stated the first night that he went up to the bridge 40 minutes later and “discovered the ship was badly off course”. This makes no sense as a declaration if he obviously knew the ship made the close sail-by to Giglio Oporto and the ship was returning to its regular course to reach Savona.
But the captain apparently decided for then (40 minutes later) for the first time that since the ship had a huge hole in its port side – that he should return to Giglio Oporto. The captain dropped anchor and turned the ship around.
The ship was then headed back to the pier at Giglio Oporto. But the question is why a Mayday was not raised much sooner so boats on the island could be made ready to pick up passengers if the ship had to stop and begin evacuation procedures. For that matter – a Mayday should have been sounded the moment it was known the ship had hit a rock – on the sail-by much earlier that night.
Costa said this morning that the captain called the Costa land marine department at 10:05 Italy time. This seems to be just after the time of the beaching and probably just before he left the ship.
But that was not the most serious problem – the worst part was the actual beaching of the ship on the island before it could reach the pier in Giglio Oporto. This made the ship evacuation nearly impossible due to the list to starboard – away from the side of the initial damage.
Was the beaching a mistake – or did the captain feel the ship was sinking? It seems most likely it was a mistake – but was the ship mechanically compromised – or was he really that bad at steering the ship? It should be noted that beaching a ship is a common procedure to keep it from sinking. But in this case it was not a clean beaching – it does not seem to be intentional.
Now to the crew and life boat drill.
All crewmembers on any ship are assigned to a life drill station – their job is to direct passengers to their own assigned lifeboats. The problem in this situation was that half of the lifeboats were incapacitated because of the list. The question is whether or not officers took over once the captain left and made decisions regarding life rafts and the use of the existing life boats. We have no reports of anyone on the navigational staff (after the captain left the ship early) of being on the scene. But it seems as if someone must have taken over.
The main problem in this situation is that Costa is marketed to the pan-European market to offer cruises in five languages simultaneously, or consecutively as the case may be. Much of the panic and confusion before “abandon ship” was sounded had to do with the fact that there were so many passengers who only spoke their native languages; Italian, German, French, Spanish or English – plus possible other languages; Scandinavian, Portuguese (Brazilians), Russian, etc.
Every crew is trained to perform their duties on a stable ship – not a crippled one. This case required extreme measures and someone trained in all aspects of lifeboats to take over the evacuation. It appears someone did take over since over 4000 people were evacuated within two hours, but Costa has not identified who was in command during the evacuation. It would be nice to know.
It has already been noted that this ship board passengers in four different ports of call every week on this itinerary. The 696 who were boarded in Civitavecchia had not been given a lifeboat drill since more passengers were scheduled to board in Savona the next day – and so the drill for all of Friday’s passengers had not been held at the time of the accident.
Finally – what should have happened. The protocol of cruise ships these days is to use the “ship as the lifeboat” – if the ship had been stopped as soon as the initial damage occured everyone could have been evacuated with no loss of life or property. A mayday should have been sounded immediately.
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Posted: January 16th, 2012 under Paul Motter.