Lots of people thought that once the Costa Concordia was finally brought back from the dead and uprighted in Giglio, the cruise ship would be hauled off into the Italian sunset and taken to a scrapyard for dismantling.

That’s not going to happen anytime soon. As much as we all hope and dream that this cursed cruise ship would simply vanish from our collective sight, unfortunately life is not as simple as this.

Here’s what lies ahead:

More Salvage Work: The cruise ship will be secured so that it does not sink or topple over due to the rough weather of the upcoming winter.  As you can see from the photo to the right. the hull of the Costa Concordia Salvage ParbucklingConcordia is warped and mangled and needs to be stabilized and reinforced. Remember, the plan is to tow the cruise ship away. Given the cruise ship’s screwed-up condition, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. The consensus seems to be that work on the ship will continue until next spring. Yes, the salvage costs will exceed the $800,000,000 or so spent so far. Expect the final salvage tally to be over $1,000,000,000 ($1 billion).

Police Will Investigate the Crime Scene: There are two bodies of the dead which remain in the ship. There can be no closure until the bodies of cruise passenger, Maria Trecarichi, and Costa crew member, Russel Rebello, have been located in the ship. Engineers are popping champagne corks in the local bars in Giglio and drinking whiskey and beer after the technological & engineering success of righting the cruise beast. I say abate the party until the dead are recovered and the families are notified.   

Personal Effects Will Be Gathered: There are reportedly some 1,500 cabin safes which need to be accessed. Jewelry and any salvageable personal effects need to be returned to the owners.   

The Ship Needs to be Floated Away: At this point, the salvors will leave the cruise ship on the multiple underwater platforms. The ship will not be floated until later next year when weather permits. You will see the Concordia at the port in Giglio for at least another 6 of 7 months. Yes, expect another highly reported over-the-top media event when the ship is finally hauled away next year.

Criminal Trial: The criminal trial against Captain Schettino will start again soon.  The fun of raising the ship is over. Now the dirty work of placing the noose around the neck of the already convicted-in-the-media Captain Coward to hold him responsible for the deaths and suffering must go forward.        

The Cruise Lines PR War Will Continue:  The cruise industry will continue to say that his was a "freak accident" whereas the students of history and safety advocates will say that more accidents, deaths and mayhem will continue given the priorities of the cruise lines. Choose your side.   

Contentious Litigation: A representative of Costa states that the cruise line intends to leave the environment around Giglio in a "pristine" condition similar to that what existed before the dreadful shipwreck. If that means that the salvage costs and environmental costs exceed one billion dollars and the applicable insurance proceeds are exhausted and corporate money is spent, so be it claims Costa before the cameras and reporters. Protecting the environment and restoring it to its original condition is paramount according to the cruise line’s PR team.

Unfortunately, the cruise line has exactly the opposite attitude toward the passengers and crew members it traumatized. Costa offered $14,600, take it or leave it, to its guests (not crew) for all of their belongings, clothes, electronics, and personal effects, and their pain and suffering and mental anguish, due to the horrifying events surrounding the Concordia’s capsizing. Do you think that restoring the passengers and crew to their original, pre-shipwreck, "pristine" condition is a goal of Costa?  Hardly.

Over a billion $ for the cruise ship salvage but pennies for the dead and suffering. Costa / Carnival and their Miami attorneys are primed and ready to continue the dog fight against the victims.

It won’t be pretty when the cameras are off and the reporters covering the exciting salvage efforts have gone home.                        

 

Photo Credit: Claudio Giovannini

Its been an interesting two days watching the live streaming video of the "parbuckling" project which raised the stricken Costa Concordia out of the sea. The submerged, starboard side of the cruise ship, which has been underwater and resting on the seabed, is now strangely warped and disfigured.

It took some 19 hours to right the cruise ship. Much of the activity took place late at night.  Some say that it was like watching paint dry, although I found it interesting.

It’s a rather amazing thought that although Costa (Carnival) offered less than $15,000 per passenger in compensation for the harrowing near-death experience of escaping from a sinking ship and leaving all of your possessions begind, the cruise line and its underwriters committed over $800,000,000 (and counting) to tilt the vessel upright.     

For those of you who didn’t have the time or inclination to watch the raising of a ship over three football fields long and over 114,000 gross tons, below is a time-lapse video of the event. You can watch the Concordia being raised from the water in 30 seconds.

  

El reflote del Concordia, en un minuto

Ver vídeoEl reflote del Concordia, en un minuto

Twenty months after the Costa Concordia crashed into the rocks and capsized off the coast of Giglio in a maritime disaster that killed 32 people and terrorized thousands others, the cruise ship emerged from the Mediterranean this morning following a spectacular "parbuckling" salvage effort costing over $800 million. 

With many millions watching via live streaming video, the stricken cruise ship was slowly pulled upright in the dark morning hours today.

As the sun rose over Giglio, you could see that the vessel was upright. It now needs to be re-floated and secured for its final voyage next year when it will be towed away to be cut into scrap metal. 

"The rotation has finished its course, we are at zero degrees, the ship is resting on the platforms," said Italy’s civil protection chief, Franco Gabrielli, at a 4 a.m. news conference on Giglio island, where he was applauded and cheered by residents.

There is no word yet whether the bodies of cruise passenger, Maria Trecarichi, and Costa crew member, Russel Rebello, have been located in the ship.

Photo Credit: Giglio News

Giglio costa Concordia Upright

Costa Concordia Parbuckling GiglioIts been over 20 months since the Costa Concordia sailed into the rocks near the little port of Giglio. Thousands of passengers and crew panicked. 32 souls perished. 2 bodies of the dead remain in the sea.

Here is my first blog about the disaster. Little did I know just how bad the situation really was that night.

Its been over 20 months since the eyesore of the capsized Concordia lay on her side at the port like a beached whale. 

Its been a crime scene ever since. Captain Schettino is standing trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. The Costa organization and parent Carnival Corporation largely escaped liability, with all of the blame carefully heaped on the unpopular "Captain Coward."

I wonder where Captain Schettino is this morning?  What is he thinking?  

What are the families of the dead and missing feeling at these early morning hours?

I bet Carnival cruise tycoon, Micky Arison, is sleeping like a baby, without a care in the world. 

It looks like a beautiful morning in Giglio.

It’s time to right the cursed ship and prepare to take her from her watery grave.

The "parbuckling" salvage efforts finally begins. 

 Giglio Costa Concordia

You can watch the Giglio News web cam here.

You can watch the Reuters live streaming web cam here.

Image Credit: Giglio News

Monday morning the much talked about "parbuckling" project will finally start to try and raise the stricken Costa Concordia cruise ship from the port of Giglio.

I have clicked on the web cams at the port of Giglio hundreds of times since January of 2012 to see what has been happening with the Concordia at the little port.

There are high hopes that this extravagant and expensive project will finally rid Giglio of this Costa eyesore.  While there will be great excitement surrounding the event, the cruise ship  is still considered a crime scene. Thirty-two people died in the accident. Captain Schettino remains on trial for manslaughter, causing the wreck and abandoning ship. 

There are still two Concordia victims whose bodies have not been recovered and may be trapped on the ship somewhere.      

The removal of the shipwreck will in many ways be the removal of a watery graveyard.  It should be a serious and somber event. 

Costa Concordia Giglio Italy

Image Credit: Giglio News

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal has affirmed an order of dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds of a case filed by an Italian citizen and Italian business for damages as a result of the Costa Concordia disaster. 

In a case styled Giglio Sub, S.N.C. and Francesco Onida versus Carnival Corporation et al., the Eleventh Circuit held that the federal district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the cruise line’s motion to dismiss the case. The appellate court held that the trial court did not err in holding that Italy was an adequate and available forum for lawsuits surrounding the cruise ship capsizing to be filed.

The first sentence summed up the court’s finding, referring to the dispute as a lawsuit filed by an Italian citizen and Italian business seeking damages suffered in Italy as a result of an Italian cruise ship which ran aground off the coast of Italy.

I predicted long ago that although the Concordia was owned by Miami-based Carnival, this would be an issue resolved in the Italian court system.

Costa Concordia Disaster

Photo Credit: Telegraph 

  

 

The big news this weekend in the on-again off-again Costa Concordia trial was the announcement that five Costa employees were sentenced to jail time for manslaughter in the death of 32 Concordia cruise passengers and crew members.

But you will see no photographs of the five men in court in handcuffs because there will be no actual jail time to be served, according to most news accounts. They will be serving suspended sentences. There appears to be no fines levied against the men in question:

Helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin:

Captain Schettino Costa ConcordaHotel Director Manrico Giampedroni:

Bridge Officer Ciro Ambrosio:

Crisis Coordinator Roberto Ferrarini; and 

Bridge Officer Silvia Coronica.

The bridge officers and the helmsman were sentenced to between 20 and 23 months in prison, while the hotel director received a two-year sentence, The crisis coordinator received a 34-month sentence.

Lawyers for the victims expressed their disgust with the sentences:

"The plea bargains are unacceptable, they shouldn’t have been proposed or accepted. These sentences are ridiculous in the face of 32 dead,’ said Gabriele dalle Luche in the Daily Mail, who represents a group of Russian passengers.

The BBC reports that Massimiliano Gabrielli, lawyer for the group Justice for Concordia, compared the "shameful" short length of the sentences to the seven years given to Emilio Fede, who was convicted of procuring prostitutes for former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The plea bargains leave disgraced cruise ship captain Schettino as the sole defendant. 

Many have criticized the legal proceeding, saying that Costa itself should also be on trial.  The cruise line previously agreed to a fine of $1.3 million to avoid all criminal charges. 

Domnica Cemortan Costa ConcordiaAs soon as the trial began, it was interrupted by a national strike by Italian lawyers. The trial has been again delayed after the lawyers for Schettino requested an opportunity to conduct tests on the cruise ship which remains capsized in the port of Giglio.

The trial itself has been a bizarre spectacle.  It is taking place in a large theater which may be an appropriate venue for such drama.

Captain Schettino has appeared in his sporty blue coat and sunglasses.  His alleged paramour, Moldovan dancer and former Costa hostess Domnica Cemortan, made an appearance to support Schettino. She was wearing attire suitable to a cocktail party and disrespectful to the dead passengers and crew members, while posing for the cameras. Her appearance added to the scandalous nature of the proceedings, given the fact that she is suing Costa for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to newspapers, "for the damage to her reputation after it became known that Mr Schettino, who is married with young children, had wined and dined her aboard the Concordia." 

The soap opera is expected to resume in September.

 

Phorto Credits:

Schettino: The Independent

Ms.Cemortan: news.au

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

Costa Concordia LawsuitIn an opinion released yesterday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a ruling from a federal district court which held that two lawsuits filed after the Costa Concordia disaster, involving 104 cruise passengers, should remain in state court in Miami.

The cases are Abeid-Saba, et al., v. Carnival Corporation and Scimone, et al. v. Carnival Corporation. The cruise line removed the cases to federal court under the Class Act Fairness Act ("CAFA") which establishes federal jurisdiction of "mass actions."

The district court held that CAFA did not apply because neither case involved more than 100 individuals. The lawyers for the passengers were careful to divide the 104 passengers into two different cases which each had less than 100 individuals involved. You can read our article about the district court’s ruling here: Costa Concordia Litigation: Tactical Blunder By Carnival Opens Door for Lawsuits in Miami.

Yesterday, the circuit court affirmed the lower court. The court held that CAFA permitted pleading cases in this manner and a defendant could not consolidate cases for the purpose of meeting that threshold standard of a mass action with 100 or more individuals. 

You can read the 11th Circuit’s opinion here. The press release by the passengers’ lawyers is here.

The federal court decision involves a technical argument and does not address the merits of the case or the issue of forum non conveniens (whether the case should be filed in Italy versus the U.S.). Carnival’s next step is probably to file a motion to dismiss the cases based on the argument that the terms of the Costa passenger tickets require that the lawsuit be filed in Genoa, Italy and that Italy is a more convenient location to pursue the litigation.  

There are many hundreds of cases proceeding in Italy. I have written articles stating that the chances of keeping a Costa Concordia lawsuit here in state court in Miami are slim. I hope it turns out that I’m wrong. 

July 5 2013 Update: A reader of this blog brought to my attention that Carnival and the other defendants in these cases have already filed motions to dismiss based on the forum selection clause in the passenger tickets (specifying Italy as the location where the cases must be filed) and the doctrine of "forum non conveniens" which is a doctrine where the court determines the most convenient location to hear the lawsuit.  There have been no rulings on these motions yet.  A recent case from the Florida Supreme Court, Cortez v. Palace Resorts, reinforced the legal proposition that there is a strong presumption in favor of not disturbing the chosen forum of a U.S. litigant. Hopefully, this will assist the passengers in keeping their lawsuits here in state court in Miami.

Photo Credit: Giglio News

The Costa Concordia disaster has created some of the weirdest stories I have ever heard of in the field of maritime law. The notion of a playboy captain dining with a young blonde former ship dancer while the cruise ship heads towards disaster would be an improbable movie script if the story were not so real.

Captain Schettino is, of course, the central actor in this absurd drama. “Captain Coward,” as the press labeled him, is heading to trial later this year for manslaughter and abandoning ship. But that did not stop him from filing a lawsuit last year against Costa Crociere alleging that the cruise line wrongfully fired him. A 600 million dollar cruise ship ruined and many passengers and crew dead under his watch, but Master Schettino becomes Plaintiff Schettino looking for compensation himself.

Domnica Cemortan - Costa ConcordiaHow does a disgraced captain who abandoned ship have the chutzpah to seek money damages after causing such death and destruction?

Schettino has a boatload of excuses. Remember that he claims that he “slipped and fell into a lifeboat.” I am surprised that he didn’t hire a personal injury lawyer to sue the cruise ship company for that too.

And now the Schettino-Costa Concordia story gets even weirder.

According to the Telegraph, Schettino’s alleged girlfriend on the ship, Domnica Cemortan, has announced that she too is suing Costa as well as Schettino himself.

You will recall that Ms. Cemortan was the captain’s dinner companion on the night of the disaster who somehow ended up on the bridge when all hell was breaking loose. She claims that Costa failed to re-hire her and she lost income as a result. She also claims that Costa and Schettino failed to protect her image and reputation. She is threatening to sue the Italian newspapers which labeled her as Schettino’s paramour and portrayed her in an endless series of bikini photos.

Isn’t this the same person who reportedly professed her love for the captain shortly after the disaster? Did Ms. Cemortan really expect that this coward of a captain, who abandoned his ship and thousands of his passengers and crew members, would somehow protect her honor?

I suppose that it’s expected to have hard feelings when your dinner date kills 32 passengers and crew members, abandons ship, and doesn’t call you the next morning. 

 

Photo Credit: genova.ogginotizie.it