Captain Schettino Changes Course While Costa Concordia Trial Starts & Stops

The criminal trial against Captain Schettino finally started this week but, believe it or not, was suspended due to a national strike of lawyers in Italy.

Captain Schettino showed up for the first day at the theater in Grosseto where the trial will be held. The paparazzi photographed him wearing a snappy blue sports coat. No tie. An open collar shirt. Cool sunglasses. Tan. With his I'll-say-anything-attitude. This guy is too much. On trial for abandoning ship and manslaughter with 32 dead on his watch and he appears like a playboy vacationing on a yacht in Monaco.

All he needed to complete his image was his blonde former cruise ship dancer Moldovan paramour at his side.   

The Telegraph newspaper reports Captain Schettino's story changed. His lawyers stated that he really didn't abandon ship. He was "inadvertently thrown from the ship" is the latest excuse.

From "I-slipped-and-fell-into-a-lifeboat" whopper to "I-was-inadvertently thrown-off-the-cruise-ship" tall tale. Oh boy.

What a soap opera will unfold when the lawyers come back to work from their strike.

Captain Schettino - Costa Concordia Cruise Ship

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Photo Credit: AP / Giacomo Aprili via Telegraph

QuadroCopter Operators Arrested in Giglio for Filming Costa Concordia

Team Black sheep - Costa Concordia GiglioA company called Team Black Sheep, specializing in remote controlled, model-copter photography and video services, captured some interesting images while travelling to Giglio, the site of the infamous Costa Concordia disaster.

Using a device referred to as a "quadrocopter," which they flew over the port of Giglio, the Black Sheet Team recorded video of the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship.

The team members were later arrested because videoing or photographing the area is now banned according to the Black Sheep YouTube page.   

You can see some photos of the stricken cruise ship here on the Black Sheet Facebook page.

Hat tip to gCaptain for the story.

 

Anger & Anguish Continue One Year after Costa Concordia

NBC News has an interesting article about the continuing struggle many survivors of the Costa Concordia disaster are experiencing one year later. 

The victims' anguish has been exacerbated by the insensitivity demonstrated by Costa and parent company Carnival.  

 A memorial service for the victims will mark the anniversary tomorrow. 

 

 

The World Focuses on Giglio, But Costa Tells Victims to Stay Away

Giglio Italy - Costa ConcordiaWith the one year anniversary of the Costa Concordia capsizing this Sunday, there are literally several hundreds new articles on line about the disaster.  

This morning CBS News aired a video (below) and published an article Costa Concordia 1 Year Later: Survivors Attempt to Move On in which several survivors explain how they are dealing with the aftermath of the horrific event.

The cruise line cheerleaders are out in full force with travel writer Jane Archer of the Telegraph newspaper in London answering her own question Is Cruising Safer One Year On? and Carolyn Spencer Brown of the Expedia / TripAdvisor owned Cruise Critic fan site conducting a puff piece interview for CNN International extolling on the virtues of cruising and blaming the series of institutional failures solely on "one rogue captain."  

More critical and honest articles include  I Need a Grave to Cry Over

As the focus is now on the island of Giglio, where the Concordia capsized and remains in view as a daily reminder of the deadly disaster, Costa has done the unthinkable by writing a letter to the victims telling them that they should stay away from the island for "logistical reasons." 

Amazingly insensitive, but this has been how Costa and Carnival have operated from day one. 

As one survivor put it: "Costa has had an inhumane and unacceptable attitude from the start."

The cruise lines would prefer not to have several thousands of people standing with the wrecked cruise ship in the background, telling the world how Costa and Carnival have treated them over the last year. 

 

 

Photo credit: CNN International

New Video Shows Perilous Last Minutes of Costa Concordia Evacuation

A newspaper in Italy has posted a video of the frantic last moments of the evacuation of the stricken Costa Concordia.  

The video obtained by La Repubblica is taken by a bystander from the island of Giglio. The cruise ship has already listed heavily to the starboard side and the water has risen to the deck where passengers and crew members are seen. I first watched the video today on Worldcrunch which describes the video as containing audio of the "panicked voices and the crashing sound of dishes."  

Click on the link here to watch the video. 

CEO Micky Arison & Other Carnival Directors Named in Costa Concordia Criminal Complaint

Micky Arison Costa ConcordiaThe Week magazine in the U.K. reports that Italian lawyers are filing a criminal complaint against Carnival CEO Micky Arison as well as other American and British directors of Costa's dual listed parent companies, Carnival Corporation and Carnival PLC. 

The article written by Andrea Vogt, "Costa Concordia: UK Directors to be Named Responsible for Capsize," explains that lawyers for Costa Concordia victims allege that the Carnival directors "not only tolerated but promoted" the ship salute that led to the disaster in order to entertain the passengers and boost profits. 

Ms. Vogt explains that new evidence to be filed in the case alleges that criminal responsibility for the deadly wreck does not stop with Captain Schettino, "but goes all the way to the top."

The criminal complaint will be filed in Grosseto, Italy, by an Italian law firm in Milan.

It names 14 Carnival directors, including Sir John Parker, chairman of Anglo American plc and vice chairman of DP World Limited; Sir Jonathon Band, former First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff; Arnold Donald, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Counsel; Debra Kelly-Ennis, former president and CEO of Diageo Canada; and Micky Arison, chief executive of Carnival. 

Arison was roundly criticized for trying to distance himself from the Concordia disaster.  He is photographed above standing in front of the Concordia with Costa CEO Foschi. 

Cruise Critic & Cruise Log Continue Cheerleading for Cruise Lines As One Year Costa Concordia Anniversary Approaches

The Costa Concordia disaster provided a disturbing insight into the unsafe operations of the cruise lines. Before the Concordia capsized, the cruise industry did not even have a requirement that cruise ships conduct a muster drill before the passengers set sail.  There were no restrictions to the bridge. The on board girlfriend of infamous Captain Schettino was reportedly in the bridge after the Concordia hit the rocks. And there was widespread confusion from the senior officers in the bridge all the way down to the crew members at the life boats.  

Can you imagine flying on an American Airlines 757 where the stewardess doesn't bother to instruct Cruise Criticpassengers on evacuation and emergency procedures before take-off and the captain's girlfriend hangs out in the cockpit?     

The image of panic and the ensuing death of both passengers and crew aboard the Concordia threatened to sink the cruise industry's idyllic image of fun, family vacations on the high seas. In response, the cruise industry - lead by the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") - devised a public relations scheme to create the image that an "independent" panel of experts was objectively scrutinizing the situation and arriving at proposals to make cruising safer.

The reality, however, was that the so-called "independent" experts were really paid consultants for the cruise lines and were hired more for public relation reasons than to really analyze the obvious weaknesses in the cruise industry's procedures.   

But with every new safety recommendations proposed throughout 2012, the travel agents and cruise specialists united for a collective "hurrah!" to ensure the public that cruising was safer than ever before. Leading the PR campaign was the popular on line cruise community Cruise Critic, owned by Expedia / TripAdvisor, which like a loyal cheerleader applauded everything the cruise industry announced.

Costa  Concordia Even more disappointing was the unabashed cheer-leading by USA TODAY's Cruise Log which, although owned and operated by a major newspaper, might as well be a part of the cruise industry's PR committee. Like Cruise Critic, Cruise Log was all-too-quick to publish whatever CLIA wanted reported in the news as the Gospel Cruise Truth.

Lacking in the Cruise Critic / Cruise Log discourse was any critical analysis by experienced and truly objective maritime experts about what the cruise industry was proposing. Neither Cruise Critic nor Cruise Log offered a single criticism, or dissenting view, regarding the post-Concordia safety recommendations. No one mentioned the fact that there was no consequence if any of the recommendations the cruise industry was proposing were ignored by a cruise line.

The recommendations remain just that - recommendations - with no governing body to impose fines or sentences if they are not followed. 

We here at Cruise Law News voiced our reservations throughout the year about some of these proposals, starting with the dubious and laughable "independent" nature of the so-called experts. We pointed out specific shortcomings of the ten point safety recommendations which you can read here, here and here.

With the Costa Concordia one-year anniversary less than a week away, the cruise industry is again gearing up its PR campaign to try and convince the public that it has made great strides in ensuring that a cruise vacation on the high seas is safe and sound. Cruise Log just published a puff piece extolling CLIA's 10 safety recommendations, followed by an almost identical article published today by Cruise Critic which might as well have been written by publicists hired by CLIA and Expedia to Cruise Logencourage the public to cruise.

Ultimately, cheer-leading like this does more harm than good. Media and internet companies like Cruise Log and Cruise Critic are selfishly short-sighted in their unrestrained support and promotion of the cruise industry.  As matters now stand there is no oversight of the foreign-flagged cruise ships and foreign-incorporated cruise companies. The cruising public remains at risk. The public needs fewer cheerleaders and more watchdogs.  

Instead of an independent media watching over the cruise business and a community of independent thinkers with a healthy degree of skepticism, cruising is dominated by spineless journalists and a flock of sheep ready to follow the cruise lines over the next cliff.

Countdown to One Year Anniversary of Costa Concordia Disaster

The one year anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster is one week away.

You will begin to see daily stories about the survivors and families whose loved ones did not survive the disaster.  There will be a wide variety of articles about how the victims are handling their lives at this point.

Some people have seemed to have largely put the terrible incident behind them. Others are struggling emotionally and physically. Some passengers settled their case and have tried to move on. Some crew members resolved their differences and are back to work with Costa on other cruise ships. Other passengers and crew are Francesco Schettino just now pursuing legal action and face a different year or two ahead of them.

Here are some of the recent stories:

29 year-old Kentucky resident Lauren Moore was sailing aboard the ill-fated cruise ship with her friends when disaster struck. She says: "It's not easy for me to forget. I remember the sounds of the screaming. I remember the feeling of the boat going over on its side."

"People being shoved, people screaming, people fighting each other for a spot to safe their life. My friend and I grabbed hands and we never let go of each other until we were safe on land."  Lauren says that she remembers the sights and sounds of the horrible events that claimed the lives of 32 people every day. she chose to accept the cruise line's settlement offer last year.  One year after the disaster, she now wants to celebrate the fact that she and her friends are alive on the one year anniversary.  You can watch a video of Lauren here

Ian and Janice Donoff of London were among the last to escape the death ship. An article in Haaretz explains that the couple are religiously observant and spent the day in Rome, returning to the ship early to prepare for Shabbat. After dinner they watched a magic show when they heard a loud bang and scrape.  Around 11:00 PM the abandon ship order was finally made resulting in panic, Janice recalled "everybody was clamoring for the lifeboats."

The Donoffs found themselves stuck in an inner section with 400 other people and only one exit. Ian recited the confessional Jewish prayer before death.  They eventually made it to an outer deck, and crawled down a rope ladder to a lifeboat. Janice broke bones in her hands and feet. On dry land they recited the "Birkat Hagomel" (the blessing of Thanksgiving ).

Costa offered 11,000 Euros in compensation for lost property, but the Donoffs did not accept the sum. They have considered suing and are currently negotiating with the company. The article states that they harbor no ill will toward Captain Schettino.

Mylene Litzler, 23 and her fiancé Mickael Blemand, 24, from France, are two of the 32 people who perished.  The Telegraph published an excellent article entitled Costa Concordia survivors: "One Year On, Our Lives Are Still in Ruins" which included comments by Mylene's father: “I absolutely want to see the commander and a part of his crew in prison for this. It has broken a whole life – ours, as well as Mickael’s parents’ and that of Mylene’s brother. Justice needs to be done.”   

British victims, Rose Metcalf Amelia Leon from South London, suffer from flashbacks, nightmares and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They are some of the clients of the English law firm, Irwin Mitchel, who are representing crew members and passengers against Costa. One of the lawyers told a newspaper in the U.K.:  “We believe that the initial impact could have been avoided and that this was Costa Concordia Giglio Italyicompounded by the failure of the crew, the captain, and the carrier to exercise proper evacuation processes. Had they been carried out lives may have been saved.”

Newlywed couple Benji Smith and Emily Lau were on their wedding cruise when disaster struck. They scavenged a rope from the deck of the ship and rappelled down the hull. "I've never been so terrified in my life," says Smith. "When all the lifeboats left us behind, Emily and I truly thought we were going to die. This was our honeymoon cruise, but we actually said goodbye to each other." They recently announced that they are publishing a memoir of their experience escaping from the sinking ship and an album of original compositions inspired by the disaster.

Captain Francesco Schettino appears again in the news today, lamenting in his usual hyperbole that "I have been painted as worse than bin Laden."  

The cruise industry claims that the cruise lines have instituted improvements to avoid the next Concordia disaster. Carnival U.K. chief David Dingle explains to ITV in a video that the cruise lines have started more drills for passengers and staff, extra life jackets, fewer visits to the bridge, ships keeping to course and heavy objects being secured.  

Meanwhile the Concordia lies in the port of Giglio. It is expected to be removed from the port at the end of next summer.

 

Photo credit:

Top - Francesco Schettino - AP

Bottom - Costa Concordia - Giglio News (image dated September 2012).

Costa Concordia Survivor Looks Back As One Year Anniversary Approaches

A television station (WBRD) in Louisville Kentucky brings us the story of 29 year-old Lauren Moore, a Bowling Green native, who sailed aboard the ill-fated Costa Concordia with her friends a year ago come January 13th. 

Lauren had only been on-board for a couple hours when disaster struck. She says:

"It's not easy for me to forget. I remember the sounds of the screaming. I remember the feeling of the boat going over on its side."

"People being shoved, people screaming, people fighting each other for a spot to safe their life. My friend and I grabbed hands and we never let go of each other until we were safe on land." 

Lauren says that she remembers the sights and sounds of the horrible events that claimed the lifes of 32 people every day, but she wants to celebrate the fact that she and her friends are alive on the one year anniversary.    

 

 

Eleven Months after Costa Concordia, Cruise Lines Still Struggling to Sell Cruises

The major cruise lines have reduced prices for this winter and early 2013 sailings by around 3.5 percent since late September, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.  

Cruise line operators started this year hoping that they could start charging passengers higher prices after offering discounts following the 2007-2009 recession. But then two weeks into the year, disaster struck when the  Costa Concordia capsized and images of panicked cruise passengers dominated the news. 32 people died. The Concordia still lies in the little Italian port of Giglio like a dead whale.

Costa Concordia - Cruise ShipNot surprisingly, cruise bookings slumped even as the cruise lines lowered prices.

Carnival and Royal Caribbean said that they were optimistic about increased demand and higher prices when they reported third-quarter results in the fall. But some analysts consider the price reductions as a sign that the cruise industry is still struggling and will have to wait until the second half of next year to see real improvements. 

Peak cruise season starts next February and that will be key to see whether the cruise lines can get back on the financial track. But before that, the cruise industry has to endure the one-year anniversary of Costa Concordia in mid January. That will be a difficult time for the cruise lines. As the giant beached whale Concordia remains half submerged on her side in Giglio, the cruise line will have to convince you that cruising is a safe vacation for your family. 

 

Image credit: Giglio News Web Cam

Reuters Falls For Cruise Industry's PR Release

This year has been a public relations mess for the cruise industry.

2012 started off with the January Costa Concordia disaster, followed by a series of articles and TV specials about cruise ship engine failures, fires, sexual assaults and controversy over the cruise industry's manipulation of the new cruise safety law.

Just the other week the cruise industry's best friend, the Miami Herald, published a critical article stating that "the cruise industry is treading water, faced with depressed fares in key markets, continuing negative headlines and would-be cruisers still spooked by the deadly disaster." 

Costa Cruise Ship Collision But yesterday the cruise industry tried to turn the bad press around. The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) released a press release stating that it polled 300 of its 16,000 CLIA travel agents and over one-half of them claim to be "doing better than last year."

But let's take a look at the actual poll.  The percentage who claim to be doing better is only 51.9% which, if accurate, means that 48.1 are doing no better or even worse than last year.

Of course, the CLIA poll is not scientific, or quantifiable, or verified by a third party.  Even if it were, there would still be a margin of error, something like like 4-5%.  So the notion that over half of travel agents are really enjoying increased bookings is a rather dubious proposition at best.

But that did not stop Reuters from writing a promo piece for CLIA "US Cruise Industry Sees Increased Bookings for 2012." Reuters ran with the conclusions on the CLIA PR release that ticket sales were up and then quoted the CLIA CEO Christine Duffy characterizing the Costa Concordia disaster as "a very isolated event and not indicative of how the broader cruise industry operates."

Other travel publications then quickly fell in line and reported that cruise ticket sales were up. 

Breaking Travel News reported "Cruise Lines International Association Finds Optimism in Industry;" Travelers Today published "Cruise Bookings on the Rise in 2012 Despite Costa Concordia Incident;" Travel Agent's Report stated "Agents' Cruise Sales Are Outpacing 2011;" and the Sun Sentinel reported "Cruise Agents Optimistic About Sales, Survey Says."

Its a fascinating process to watch a cruise industry, battered by bad press, create its own happy news and then feed it to the press as a newsworthy event.

Costa to Re-Float the Concordia, But Can the Cruise Industry Salvage Its Reputation?

Friday the 13th was the 6 month anniversary of the January the 13th Costa Concordia disaster.

This weekend, I read through several dozen articles which looked back over the last 6 months since the Costa cruise ship killed 32 people and terrorized thousands.  I watched the recent specials on NBC and CNN about dangers inherent in cruising, including rapes as well as ship fires and sinkings.

I am struck by just how badly all of the articles and videos portray the cruise industry.

The Miami Herald recently published an article Cruise Industry Still in Troubled Waters Six Months After Costa Concordia, written by tourism reporter Hannah B. Sampson, who I have criticized for writing puff pieces supporting the cruise lines. Ms. Sampson seems to have had a moment of insight.  She writes " Costa Concordia Salvage. . . the cruise industry is treading water, faced with depressed fares in key markets, continuing negative headlines and would-be cruisers still spooked by the deadly disaster." 

The article continues: " . . . lawsuits related to the Jan. 13 catastrophe are piling up. The captain blamed for the accident — still being investigated but no longer on house arrest — is making new headlines in television interviews. And the larger question of safety on cruise ships is earning greater scrutiny as longtime critics gain a wider audience."

This time, the Miami Herald has the story exactly right. Things are indeed tough when the Miami Herald - a huge supporter of the cruise lines - delivers a message that the cruise industry is struggling.

The Miami Herald interviewed the usual cruise lines fans and industry representatives. Carolyn Spencer Brown, the editor of the popular online cruise community Cruise Critic, and an unabashed cruise supporter, is quoted saying “It was horrific, the ship’s still in the water, we’re still hearing about it.”  She predicted that  " . . . we won’t see the new normal until we get past the year’s anniversary."  I agree, assuming the doomed ship is not still lying on its side in the little port of Giglio next year.

Salvage operations are finally starting in an effort to float the dead cruise ship out of sight to a scrap yard where it will be disemboweled, cut up and eventually melted.  The salvage operations seem to be painfully slow to me, although I suppose it is a massive undertaking with a ship that big.

Will the salvage be done by January 13th of next year?  It will be a PR disaster if not. The cruise industry doesn't want the ship to still be there when the families of the dead return for another vigil.  I would not doubt it if the salvage contract contains incentives to complete the job before January 13, 2013.      

There is another operation underway - to try and salvage the cruise industry's reputation.  This is a far more difficult task.      

The Concordia disaster brought the world's attention not only on the outrageous conduct of the captain but on the manner in which the cruise industry treats its customers after disaster strikes. Part of the discussion today involves the onerous terms of the passenger tickets which the cruise lines draft to protect themselves against all legal claims.  It is shameful for a cruise industry, which collects over $35,000,000,000 a year and pays no taxes, to offer 11,000 Euros on a take-it-or-leave-it basis to traumatized passengers.

There is also the pesky business of cruise ship crimes (particularly rape) and accusations that the industry covers crime up. The debate whether cruising is a perfect place to commit a crime has resurfaced and reached a much broader audience.   

The cruise line's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), doesn't have much to say to compete with the images of the panic and terror aboard the Concordia or the spectacle of a rape victim explaining how a family vacation turned into a nightmare.  CLIA's talking points are old.  This is an industry that promises cruising is safe, but works overtime to conceal crimes from the public.

The public must feel uneasy when CLIA's favorite PR statement “the number one priority of the cruise industry is the safety of its passengers” is juxtaposed against a 15 year old girl on CNN's Anderson Cooper's program discussing how a crew member raped her.

CLIA was under siege at a Senate hearing into the Concordia last March when Senator Rockefeller characterized CLIA President Christine Duffy as dishonest and the cruise industry being more interesting in avoiding U.S. taxes than the passenger's safety.

Add to this the recent revelation that the FBI and the cruise lines scuttled the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act in a concerted effort to prevent the U.S. public from learning about the hundreds of crimes which occur each year on CLIA cruise ships.    

CLIA tries to portray the cruise industry as proactive and interested in regulating itself.  But many think this is more publicity than substance. Consider how little the cruise lines have done since January to actually improve cruise ship safety. 

The Herald article outlines only a handful of steps the cruise lines have discussed in an effort to convince the public to spend their vacation dollars cruising:

Costa Concordia Evacuation - Confusion(1) more life vests on the ships; (2) no unnecessary people in the bridge; (3) pre-approved ship routes shared with all members of bridge; (4) twelve uniform emergency instructions; and (5) evacuation drills before a ship leaves port.

But these are such basic procedures that it is shocking to think that they were not in place 100 years ago, after the Titanic sank. 

It's like having an aviation industry where there are no mandatory safety instructions before take-off, girlfriends of the captain are permitted to enter the cockpit during an emergency landing, and the captain is the first one off the plane and down the emergency slide.

Even uber cruise fan Carolyn Spencer Brown admits: "Many of those changes should have already been in place before the incident."

My prediction is that the salvage efforts will have the Concordia out of sight before the one year anniversary of the disaster.  

But the cruise line's reputation?  If the cruise industry doesn't develop transparency, its battered reputation will sink further below the waves. 

 

Photos credits:

Top - AP / Pier Paola Cito

Bottom Sky News

Six Months After Costa Concordia Disaster, Ship Remains Offshore

 

Video: CBS  "Captain Schettino remains the most reviled man in Italy." 

Costa Concordia Survivors Describe 'Goliath' Fight Against Cruise Industry

Captain Schettino: "I F---ed Up!" - Black Box Reveals the Truth

Yesterday, we discussed Captain Schettino's paid interview with an Italian news station where he blamed a junior officer for the Concordia disaster, claiming that he entered the bridge only after the cruise ship hit the rocks.  He says that he ordered the navigation to be manual in an effort to save the ship.

But today, investigators have leaked information to the Italian press which directly contradict Schettino's "I-didn't-do-it" excuse. The ship's "black box" shows that Schettino disabled the automatic pilot and took control of the ship at 9:39 PM that night - six minutes before the collision at 9:45 p.m. (photo shows Italian Coast Guard recovering black box from cruise ship). 

Costa Concordia Black BoxThe Corriere della Sera newspaper obtained the black box audio recordings which revealed panic on the Concordia's bridge.

According to the Vancouver Sun, an unidentified officer yelled: "Our ass is dragging along the seabed!." Schettino responded: "What did we hit?" to which the officer replied: "The reef."

Another officer said: "It was the salute that he wanted," apparently referring to the "sail by" Schettino tried to perform. At 9:56 PM Schettino telephoned Roberto Ferrarini, an officer at Costa Cruises:

"Roberto, I f-- up!" he said, according to the transcript. "Look, I'm dying here, don't tell me anything."

In the U.S., statements like this are called "excited utterances" and are admissible as evidence to show the defendant's state of mind at the time (before a defendant can begin to plot and scheme and come up with an excuse). 

A preliminary hearing remains scheduled for July 21, 2012 where additional technical information will be submitted to the presiding Italian judge.

 

Photo credit:  Reuters

Paid Over $60,000 for Interview, Captain Schettino Still Can't Offer Genuine Apology to Concordia Cruise Victims

The big news coming our of Italy as we approach the 6 month anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster is an interview the infamous Francesco Schettino gave to an Italian television channel.

Now that an Italian court has released Captain Schettino from house release and lifted the gag order imposed on him in January, we have the first extensive interview of the disgraced captain since he ran the luxury cruise ship into the rocks and killed 32 passengers and crew members.

The interview was conducted by Italy's Canale 5, which is owned by controversial former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

From what I have read and listened to, it doesn't seem like Schettino has learned much during his sentence of house arrest Costa Concordia Captain Schettinoand 6 months of silence and self-reflection.  Yes, he eventually got around to an apology but it was mixed in with denials, excuses, a bruised ego, and a nervous eye twitch. The low points:

He said he was a "victim" claiming he was not in charge at the time of the wreck;

He claims he was distracted by a telephone call;

He claims that the rock the cruise ship hit was not charted; 

He says it was just an accident and not a crime; 

He does not regret delaying the deployment of the life boats; and 

His dinner companion blond hostess Domnica Cemortan was just a friend and did not enter the bridge.

Several news sources report that Schettino received 50,000 Euros (over $60,000) for the interview although the Italian news station denied paying him anything.

The U.K.'s Mail Online reports that after the interview aired, the news station's website was "bombarded with angry comments towards Schettino."  

One read: "I was on the ship that night with two children and they didn't let me onto a lifeboat. Schettino and most of the crew deserve nothing."  Another read: "Schettino you are a coward. A captain never abandons ship. Shame on you,"

 

 

Delusional & Grandiose: Captain Schettino Claims That He & God Diverted Disaster!

Captain Schettino - Costa Concordia Earlier today I blogged that the Italian judges released Costa Captain Schettino of the doomed Concordia cruise ship from house arrest. The judges also released him from the strict prohibition against speaking with anyone other than his lawyer and close family friends.  

So by this afternoon we have one of Captain Schettino's first statements.

It's a whopper.

AFP quotes Schettino saying that a "divine hand" guided him and saved lives. 

"A divine hand surely touched my head . . . If I had continued on that path the ship's prow would have hit the rock. It would have been carnage." 

"There are those who say the impact with the stern was caused because I was suffering from a hallucination. What hallucination! It was rather my instinct, my skills, the ability to know the sea and suddenly change direction."

Ah, a coward captain who killed 32 innocent souls but now thanks himself and his co-pilot God.

The Italian judges should send Schettino to a mental institution.   

Costa Captain Schettino Released From House Arrest

Captain Schettino - Costa ConcordiaReuters is reporting that yesterday Italian judges released the captain of the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship  from house arrest. 

Francesco Schettino was arrested following his abandonment of the Concordia on on January 13th in a disaster in which 30 passengers and crew died and two people are lost and presumed dead.

The judges in Grosseto, Italy said Schettino would no longer have to remain confined to his home in Meta di Sorrento but would have to remain in his home town. He would also no longer be bound by the strict conditions of house arrest which prevented him from communicating with anyone other his lawyer and close family.

According to Reuters, the judges indicated that the time Schettino spent under house arrest had a deterrent effect and he would remain under supervision by authorities.

Schettino faces charges of multiple counts of manslaughter, causing the accident and abandoning ship prematurely. 

CNN's "Cruise to Disaster" Airs Tonight

CNN - Cruise to Disaster Costa Concordia DisasterTonight CNN will broadcast "Cruise to Disaster," a documentary into the Costa Concordia disaster. Here is the lead in to the CNN special program:

"What we found will be unsettling for anyone who has taken or is thinking of taking a cruise: allegations of inadequate safety briefings and chaos in the minutes after the collision; a captain who failed to sound a general alarm for almost an hour, meaning vital, lifesaving assemblies at lifeboat stations did not take place; and a crew that felt unable to act without clear orders from their captain.

In some cases, lifeboats were not able to be launched because by the time the general alarm finally sounded at 10:48 p.m., the ship was leaning over too far to allow the lifeboats to launch. Thirty-two people died in the Concordia disaster.

We learned that 6,000 tons of water entered the Concordia in just 20 minutes. For a ship three times the weight of the Titanic, it was fatal. Almost immediately, key equipment in the engine room was knocked out. The ship's backup generators were flooded.

Computers that monitor the ship's stability were also compromised. CNN's documentary team obtained remarkable footage from the ship's bridge that revealed Captain Francesco Schettino grappling with a situation that was already out of control. His ship had a hole below the waterline the width of a football field.

We also found compelling evidence that Schettino's decision to "salute" the island of Giglio by sailing perilously close caused the accident, but also that this wasn't the first time the Costa Concordia had sailed within a few hundred yards of the rocks.

Schettino is still awaiting trial on multiple charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. Schettino escaped the ship on a lifeboat while the ship was capsizing. A transcript of his tense exchange with Port Authority officials can be read here, including their order to him to "Get on board, damn it!"

Here is the video introduction to the program tonight which airs at 8:00 PM EST:

 

Unapproved Maps & Faulty Instruments Add To Costa Concordia's Woes

A newspaper in Italy is reporting that the doomed Costa Concordia  was sailing with its sealed doors open, unapproved maps and faulty instruments, based on information leaked from investigators.

The Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera states that a court hearing is scheduled on July 21st when the full results of technical analysis will be revealed. Captain Francesco Schettino and eight others including three executives from Costa Crociere are under investigation.

Costa ConcordiaThe "black box" was also reportedly not working at the time of the capsizing. Emails cited by Corriere della Sera indicate hat the cruise ship was scheduled for repairs. "The Vdr (Voyage Data Recorder) has broken down for the umpteenth time . . . The situation is becoming unbearable," Costa Crociere's technical director Pierfrancesco Ferro is quoted as saying.

An officer on board questioned by investigators also reportedly said sealed doors were open at the time of the impact as "this was a practice used during the navigation to ease the flow of people who were at work."  I assume this refers to the water-tight doors in the lower crew decks,

Costa denies the black box was malfunctioning and blames its captain, Schettino, if the maps on board were not authorized.

When the full results of the technical investigation are revealed later this month, I am sure that there will be enough blame for everyone to be shared.

Carnival Sued For Design Defects Alleged in Costa Concordia Cruise Ship

Following the Costa Concordia tragedy, there was considerable debate about where the survivors would file suit and what legal claims against the cruise line would be raised.

As we approach 6 months after the disaster, there is even more confusion. Lawsuits have been filed all over the place.  

A group of New York lawyers filed suit in state court here in Miami. Many Miami lawyers referred cases to Italian lawyers to pursue in Genoa, Italy where Costa is headquartered. Other New York lawyers filed suit in New York.  Lawyers in Illinois filed suit in Chicago. One lawyer filed suit in Galveston and Costa Concordia Cruise Ship - Design Defect Lawsuiteven took the extraordinary step of seizing a Carnival cruise ship to try and get Carnival's attention. 

The latest highly publicized court filing, announced last week, involves a case filed against Carnival Corporation for the defective design of the Costa Concordia.   

Mississippi lawyer John Arthur Eaves filed the lawsuit in California and alleges that the Concordia was designed in a manner that causes the cruise ship to "roll and list" and caused problems safely evacuating the vessel.  He intends to names the designers and architects in the lawsuit.

Mr. Eaves scheduled a press conference in Italy (see video below) and said:  

"We believe that the actions of Carnival were so calculated, to place the profits of their fleet, the ability to sell more space on each boat was so calculated a decision that they intentionally ignored safety concerns and for that we have asked the court for punitive damages in the United States which is the ability of a U.S. court to take away the profits by which Carnival gain. We thought it is not right for Carnival to make huge profits by doing the wrong thing." 

Mr. Eaves was the lawyer who filed suit in Galveston and was criticized for seizing a Carnival cruise ship "as a shot across the bow" to get the cruise line's attention.  I met Mr. Eaves in Washington D.C. during the Congressional hearings into the Concordia disaster. He seems like a bright lawyer and a good fellow who has a passionate interest into cruise ship safety issues. 

His "design defect" filing in California is another creative lawsuit seeking to hold Carnival responsible for the Concordia disaster.  His latest lawsuit has also come under criticism by the cruise industry defenders, but I think it is right on target.

Someone needs to take a look at these taller and taller cruise ships and determine whether they are safely designed.  A couple of months ago I wrote an article Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?  I'm not a naval architect but the cruise ships today seem to have far too much air draft, like a 17 story condominium stuck on a barge.

Cruise ships like this depend on stabilizers. But stabilizers are of no help when the cruise ship loses power.  Ships like this seem likely to tip over.   

It's the last place I would want my family to be if there is a collision, or a fire, or the engines fail in rough water. 

 

 

Photograph: News Pictures / Rex Features

Carnival Forgets the Costa Concordia Dead, and Celebrates a NBA Championship Basketball Team

It's approaching six months since the death of ill fated Costa Concordia.  But it seems like yesterday that the renegade Costa captain crashed the $500 million cruise ship ingloriously into the granite underwater rocks surrounding the little island of Giglio, terrorizing over four thousand passengers and crew and killing innocent souls who were simply trying to enjoy a vacation cruise.   

But the news today is not about the Concordia disaster. Cruise bookings are up for Costa, the travel experts tell us. The reports of the demise of the Costa brand predicted earlier this year, are old and now disregarded. Costa has brought a brand new cruise ship online with great fanfare. Things are looking up for the cruise lines, the cruise lines tell us.

Carnival Cruise Line - Costa Concordia Disaster - Micky Arison The last thing on the mind of CEO Arison of Carnival Cruise Lines, the owner of Costa, is the death, doom and gloom associated with the Concordia disaster.  Arison is a happy camper. He just celebrated his multi-million dollar Miami Heat basketball team winning another NBA championship.

The champagne is still flowing.

Fat cat cruise CEO's like Arison don't lose sleep over disasters. OK, 32 dead. It could have been worse.  Shit happens.  A 500 million dollar cruise line lying on its side in the water. Thank Poseidon, God of the Sea, that we are fully insured for the hull and lost revenues. I'm still worth billions. Let's move on. Is the Heat going to win the championship?  

That's how billionaire Arison thinks.  He misses no sleep worrying about dead customers.  

But there are people who haven't forgotten the terror of January 13th.  There are passengers and crew members who can't sleep because of the terror of that night.  There are parents, spouses and children who grieve their dead children, soul mates and parents.         

What do the families of the Concordia victims think watching the spectacle of Arison on TV laughing and holding his NBA championship trophy over his head?  

Do the the families of the dead awake in the middle of the night triggered by the thought that those responsible for killing their family members care not an iota for their loves ones' suffering while holding NBA trophies and drinking champagne? 

Giglio at Sunrise - Costa Concordia Lies Asleep

Last night I attended a pre-game party for the Miami Heat - Oklahoma City Thunder basketball game at a friend's house. One of the families was excitedly talking about leaving on Wednesday for a cruise to Italy.  Other families began comparing cruise stories to Italy.  I don't talk "cruise law" during social events.  I just listened.  

There were no discussions about cruise ship fires, groundings or disappearances at the party.  No jokes about "watch out for the rocks." No mention of the Costa Concordia crash.  It was as if the capsizing of the Concordia never happened.

This morning the sun arose over the little Port of Giglio.  There slept the Concordia, peacefully resting on her side. The terrifying screams of panicked Costa passengers have been replaced by the gentle lapping of the Mediterranean waters against Concordia's hull.  

 

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship - Giglio Italy

 

Image credit: Giglio News webcam

Passengers Panic As Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Begins to Sink

Costa Concordia Sinking - Evacuation Cruise ShipCosta Cruise Lines' Costa Concordia cruise ship has evacuated most of its passengers after a disastrous situation this evening near the island of Giglio in southern Tuscany, Italy. 

Media reports suggest that the cruise ship ran aground or struck a reef after departing from its regular course.   

The grounding ruptured the hull and water entered the vessel, leading to the forced evacuation of many of the 4,231 passengers and crew from the stricken cruise ship into lifeboats.  There are reports that passengers jumped into the water during the chaotic circumstances following the grounding. 

The official statements from the cruise line are factually vague.  There is no explanation regarding the cause of the grounding.  The cruise line proclaims that the passengers are "not at risk," but this is probably the usual misleading and false cruise propaganda.  Some media sources are reporting that there are passengers who are dead.  Media sources are reporting around 3  passegers died and up to 50 are missing. 

The Italian cruise ship carrying 3,200 passengers and approximately one thousand crewmembers.  The Costa Concordia had departed for a Mediterranean cruise includio ports in Civitavecchia, Palermo, Cagliari, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, ​​Marseille and Savona.

News sources are quoting a passenger describing the mishap similar to the Titanic disaster, "with a scramble among the evacuees, screaming and crying."

January 14, 2012 Update:

Costa issued a statement that the cruise ship struck a "rock."   Other news sources are reporting that the captain was arrested for manslaugter and abandoning the ship.  

Canadian television CTV has an article about the grounding and cruise safety issues - Crime, Fires Compromise Cruise Ship Safety: Experts -  which you can read here.

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Sinking

Do you have accurate information regarding this disaster?  Do you have photo or video to share? 

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