Today the hearing begins in Grosseto, Italy to determine who should be named as defendants in the criminal trial involving the deadly Costa Concordia disaster.
The potential defendants from the cruise ship include infamous Captain Schettino who was at the helm when he maneuvered the ship into the rocks, as well as the ship’s second-in-command, three officers who were on the bridge, and a safety official who falsely told the Italian Coast Guard the cruise ship merely experienced an electrical failure.
Executives of Costa are also being investigated for their roles in the accident.
The international press is closely covering the hearing. Maritime and scientific experts are expected to testify based on their review of "black box" data and other information. The Italian judge will review the expert's' findings and opinions to determine who should stand trial.
Hundreds of survivors and their counsel are expected to attend,
Costa's plan has been to dump all of the blame on its captain, which is easy to do given his conduct. But there remains concerns that the cruise line supplied out of date maps and poorly trained the crew. How all of this plays out should be interesting.
The fact that hearings like this and a trial will take place are rather remarkable events. Most maritime casualties involving cruise ships do not end up with trials like this. Lots of information has already been "leaked." If the disaster involved a cruise ship flagged in places like the Bahamas or Panama, there would be no hearings or trials whatsoever. Those countries would certainly exonerate their cruise line masters who choose to register their ships in and pay fees to third world flag states for friendly treatment.
Italy - where the Concordia was flagged and Costa is based - should be applauded for the efficiency and professionalism demonstrated by the Italian court system so far.
Photo credit: CNN