Captain Schettino Blames Helmsman for Sinking the Concordia

Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker - Cruise LawIn yesterday's criminal trial against Captain Schettino, the disgraced captain of the doomed Costa Concordia testified that the disaster was not his fault, but was due to the error of the helmsman who failed to promptly follow his orders to turn the cruise ship away from the rocks.

Schettino testified that when he arrived in the bridge, he told the officer at the helm to turn the rudder to the left, which would have pulled the stern to the right and possibly avoided the rocks. But there was a delay of around 12 to 13 seconds, and the helmsman turned the rudder to the right.

The problem with Schettino's defense is that it was Captain Schettino who decided to divert the cruise ship from its scheduled route and head the ship directly toward Giglio in the first place.  The cruise ship then sailed four miles off course heading dangerously close to the rocky island.  

Sailing a ship off course like this, at high speed, in the night is ill conceived. Its not much different than altering the scheduled course of a 747 aircraft and flying it toward a mountain to show off. It's hardly a defense to Captain Schettinothe captain's malfeasance by returning to the cockpit at the last second and telling a subordinate officer to try and make a last ditch emergency maneuver to avoid crashing the plane. Thar's just additional evidence of the captain's recklessness.

Captain Schettino also complained that Costa should shoulder some of the blame because the Costa nautical maps did not accurately depict the rocky shoals which the Concordia struck.  I say hogwash to that, because the cruise ship should not have been anywhere near Giglio. The granite rocks around Giglio are part of the geological structure of the earth and have existed for over a million years. If the maps on the ship are not perfect and miss a rock or two, Schettino nonetheless planned to head the ship directly on what essentially was a collision course with the island of Giglio.

The 32 deaths are due in large part due to the captain's delay in ordering the evacuation of the passengers and crew. The helmsman had nothing to do with that. My opinion is that the Italian court will find Schettino guilty of all counts: causing the shipwreck, manslaughter and abandoning ship.

Schettino's game of blaming everyone except himself must be particularly painful to the families of the Captan Schettino - Costa Concordia32 dead passengers and crew who are trying to heal from the horror of losing their loved ones on Captain Schettino's ship. It also reveals a lack of remorse and a continuing arrogance which hopefully the court will consider in sentencing the cowardly captain.

CNN interviewed me about Schettino's testimony this morning on its program "New Day." The images are from the CNN program this morning.

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Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
John Goldsmith - September 24, 2013 3:39 PM

The Captain of any vessel is responsible for every single aspect of the vessel.Tell him the buck stops with you. What a complete buffoon.

Stir Fry - March 1, 2014 10:11 AM

Don't the cruise lines monitor the location of their ships?

Still having a difficult time believing the CC could go four miles off course and into dangerous waters without a word from corporate.

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