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O Captain! My Captain!

Captains and their ships. The ones who stayed, the ones who fled.

This Jan. 17, 2012 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia, which ran aground on Friday, Jan. 13, lying on its starboard side just off the tiny Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy. As the ship keeps shifting on its rocky ledge, many have raised the prospect of a possible environmental disaster if the 2,300 tonnes of fuel on the half-submerged cruise ship leaks. Satellites are used to monitor the area while authorities are preparing to remove the fuel from inside the vessel. (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)

This Jan. 17, 2012 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia, which ran aground on Friday, Jan. 13, lying on its starboard side just off the tiny Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy. (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)

Whoever heard of the Costa Concordia? Now, we all know its name. And the infamy – so far – of its “I’m out of here” captain, Francesco Schettino.

The captain who tripped and fell in a lifeboat. Chicken of the sea, they’re calling him. The captain who did not go down with his boat. Who did not say women and children first. Who was not the last man off the ship. He’s in trouble now. And already part of a long history. Of disgraced ship’s captains who bolted. Of honored captains who stood firm.

This hour, On Point: Captains and their ships. The ones who stayed. The ones who fled.

-Tom Ashbrook


Stacy Meichtry, Rome correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.

William Fowler, a professor of history, he teaches courses on maritime history at Northeastern University.

Sam Willis, naval historian and author of 8 books on ships, their crews and captains. He’s the author of Shipwreck: A History of Disasters at Sea.

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post “Audio of the captain of a stricken cruise liner arguing with the Coast Guard was made available Tuesday, and five more bodies were found in the vessel grounded off the Italian coast.”

BBC “The captain of the Costa Concordia, which crashed into rocks off the Italian coast and capsized, has been criticised for allegedly leaving the ship while passengers were still on board. Is a ship’s captain legally required to be the last one off?”

Video: Sinking of Costa Concordia

This video shows the stricken ship Costa Concordia, which was carrying 4,000 passengers when it ran aground off the coast of Italy on Friday Jan. 13.

Video: Cruise Ship Oceanos Sinks, Captain Flees

This video shows the Greek cruise ship, Oceanos, sinking off the South African coast on Aug. 4, 1991. The captain and numerous members of the crew fled the vessel, with hundreds of passengers still on board.

Video: Captain Kurt Carlsen

This video shows Danish sea captain Kurt Carlsen who stayed on his sinking freighter the Flying Enterprise for 13 days, before it finally plunged under the ways off the coast of Corwall, England. Carlsen was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City on Jan. 17, 1952.


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  • Blueyedog

    That 2nd video is incredible. Those 2 men who helped everyone get off that ship are real heroes.

  • http://twitter.com/shriber46 Jacob Arnon

    People need to read Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim. It’s about a cowardly captain and his crew who left their ship sink with hundreds of passengers on board. 

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    We’re coming up on the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, a ship whose captain and senior officers remained on board.  The managing director of the shipping line, however, abandoned ship.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    Is this cowardly captain hysteria by the media really justified, or is it a diversion take the focus off the Concordia owner Mickey Arison and his family ?????????? 
    Shari Arison is the wealthiest woman in Israel, and the luxury liner father Ted Arison, renounced his US citizenship and moved Israel to avoid US taxes.  Costa Cruises is HQed in Miami and Ted Arison is CEO. 
    Arison who has connections to Jack Abramoff, employs the fifth largest lobbying firm in Wash DC to allow them to outsource most of their labor and profits while the Arison company is infamous for exploiting low-paid shipboard labor and burying many on-board sexual-assaults on their high sea’s luxury liners which they back to the brim stacked unsafely like floating skyscrapers, with unqualified crews.  Its all about profits for Mickey and co.      WHO IS REALLY GUILTY HERE ???

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Oh, I see.  It must have been the Israeli Mossad that wrecked the ship.  Because everything has to be Israel’s fault.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        I didn’t see anything in Paolo’s comment accusing Mosaad, but GREEDY rich, that will repeatedly risk anyone else, for PROFIT!

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

          My mention of Mossad was sarcasm, but it doesn’t bother you that seemingly every comment from Paolo Caruso makes some negative reference to Israel and Jews?

          • Terry Tree Tree

            No more than Moda’s continuing support of Republicans.
               I do NOT think that the Jewish and Israelis are EITHER demons all, or angels all! 
               The raid on Entebe gets my admiration.   Some of the actions against Palestinians gets my disgust.
               Wrongs have been committed by Israel, and its neighbors!

          • Plushkin

            what is wrong with supporting Republicans?  Does michganjf or whoever else  support for Democrats drives you equally nuts?

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Republicans are always claiming the moral highgground, as their domain, then consider someone like Newt?
               Democrats are a pain, too, but I don’t hear near the moral HYPOCRICY, and more honest love for their fellow man, in actions!

          • Hidan

            Careful there Terry our friend likes to stalk

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Shall I curl up in a foetal ball of worry?
              Cringe in terror at each squeak of my chair? 
               The stalker is more dangerous than a house fire, car fire, or wreck?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

            Hey Greg, I happen to like Jewish people.  But the ownership of the Concordia is Israeli with HQ in the US.  Sorry if I am breaking taboos here.  

          • Plushkin

            no you’re breaking no taboos as what you say is typical for left wing extremists when they deflect the charge or simply act as their racists nature tells them too. And you can trust me, Jewish people will do much  better without your support and professed love.

        • Plushkin

           so you are saying that captain was prevented from fulfilling his duties by greedy rich paying his salary while having fifth largest lobbying firm in D.C?

          This is typical lefty red herring: throw a couple of rabid zionists even if they clearly had nothing to do with anything and liberals will pick it up high.

          The facts of the matter are:
           * captain is coward
           * captain abandons the ship before passengers were safe
           * captain was Italian
           * Caruso is pissed at Zionists.

          make up your mind, 3T.


          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

            Hey Plush,  ever wonder why a Miami based company doesnt hire US from Kings Point or Maine Maritime ???  WHy the Arisons hide in Israel without paying taxes and offshore most of their operations, ships and labor????????

          • Plushkin

            Hey Pedruso,

            * on hiring — may they share you view of US where only good things about America  are seashores, lakes and forests? May they decide to hire Italians instead? Is it not an open market????

            * hiding/dodging — you mentioned before that 70% of Italian immigrants in America chose to return at some point. Are they all hiding in Italy and dodging American taxes? I’m sure they are :-).

            But most importantly – was Arison on board? Has he fled sinking ship? Until than you can shove your so-called `expose` up where it came from.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            I was saying the company picked the captain, and made provisions to provide the crew. 
               If pertinent, the ‘fifth-largest lobbying firm in D.C., should have spent less on lobbying, and more on a functional captain and crew?

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Interesting Information!

    • Chris B

      Kind of a failed attempt at a diversion since it seems that nobody here anyway had heard anything about all the stuff you mentioned until you brought it up.  Did it occur to you that maybe it’s just because it’s an interesting and unusual story about human nature?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

        Did you ever wonder why you haven’t heard about the Arison family and their responsibility in this disaster ?????   What I wrote is true and very relevant.

    • Guest

      Although interesting, how is any of this relevant to this negligence? This is about an irresponsible Captain and nothing more.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        It IS relevant!  The owners, or operators of the ship, ARE responsibile for the training and skill levels of the crew, and especially the captain!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

        Owned by tax dodgers and labor exploiters, the Arisons of Israel.

    • nj

      Hoping the program doesn’t focus solely on one individual or just the role of the captain…

      Questions to the On Point panel:What training and experience did the captain and crew have? What is the safety experience of the company that owns the ship? How are safety policies overseen and enforced?
      This article doesn’t provide much specific information about the particulars of this incident, but it describes some of the problems in the industry:http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/01/18/flags-of-convenience/Corporate Anarchy on the High SeasFlags of Convenienceby KARL GROSSMANThe disdain of much of the cruise ship industry for safety (as well as labor and environmental) laws is signaled by flags that fly on the stern of more than half of cruise ships. They are called “flags of convenience.”Some 60 percent of cruise ships are now registered in Panama, Liberia and the Bahamas. By doing this—by obtaining “flags of convenience” from these and other countries—ship owners can avoid the laws of the nation from which they actually operate and take advantage of weak safety, labor and environmental standards.—snipped

      • nj

        Aarrgh! Sorry for the line-spacing problems. Disqus perpetrating its evil again.

      • Sherpes5

        the captain got experience from navigating in the Gulf of Naples, a place where rules are always broken, boats come up to you close with no warning, sometimes at night with lights off.  

    • Plushkin

      Bravo Caruso!
      You logic is impeccable (as always). 
      As a Russian military joke goes: The general’s order to dig from the fence until sun down for the first time finally proved the unity of time and space.


      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

        Bravo Plush,   Your logic is incomprehensible, like most of your gratuitous posts.

        • Plushkin

          yeah it felt like I overshot with it a bit the instant I hit post. I tent to overestimate certain people…. Will adjust in the future 

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Does this make sense to anyone?

    • Plushkin

       BTW, the same comment by arguably the best voice in human history was severely censored  by Telegraph ( where apparently our little birdy is also singing)

  • JustSayin

    I guess the Captain was a Libertarian.  Let the Sea decide!

  • Gregg

    The Captain should be forced to walk the plank.

  • L armond

    Only the week before a Black American steward who alone fought fires on the deck of a ship attacked by 3 Kamakazi’s received recognition.  My father feared fire more than anything on his ship and prepared us at home to get out of fires, with ladders hooked outside our second floor bedrooms, ropes and davits, and the window fan which had a kick lever that swung it aside so we could swing out on a rope from that window.  When he was on shore, we had drills.  And we also had our at home war dogs to protect us from the local civilians.

  • L armond

    Please speak to the right for salvage access for foundered ships, and the danger to the salvagers.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Doesn’t the ship have to be abandoned by the original owner?  This came up with the Titanic.  The rule was that the first person to salvage something from the wreck became its owner.  Robert Ballard shouldn’t have been so careful not to take anything.

  • P Tanner

    I nearly spat out my drink laughing when I saw that this topic was going to be discussed.  Ha!
    Is “giong down with the ship” an acutal rule/policy?  Or is it some kind of unwritten, romantic era act of honor?

    • Alex Kingsbury


      All great questions that we were also asking backstage this
      week at On Point. Tune in to the show as we try to get to the bottom of it.
      Women and children first? Rights of salvage? We’ll try to get some answers.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      According to news reports, under Italian law, if a captain abandons ship before the passengers and crew, that’s worth a decade or so in prison.

    • P Tanner

      Thank you for the answer and discussion!  I really enjoy the topics On Point covers.

  • L armond

    I don’t know where the captain was when the reef or submurged buttress to the island was struck, but being knocked overboard, and therefore keeping handholds and latchingon is common in sailing.  In calm seas one could confidentally walk without being ready to reach for these.  Therefore, it is the people of the island who must speak to how often the cruise line approached too close in order to provide a ‘thrill’ to the passengers.  You have to remember and take precautions always with reefs and explain why you can’t approach, especially when you are dealing with the ‘oblivious class’  No captain should be available for ‘entertaining’ the troops, that is someone else’s job.  But those who ‘must be entertained’ are frequently a diversion to the managers of many institution, ships, cities, etc.

    • Diana

      I lived in Italy a long time and often vacationed on the islands of Elba, Giglio, etc.  (Plus I’m a scuba diver.)  So I know you have to be drunk or a moron to sail a giant ship like that close to any of those islands, which are surrounded by dangerous reefs.  Currently I live in Curacao, which is a major cruise ship destination, and just yesterday I saw the sister ship to the Costa Concordia  in port here.  It (the Costa Mediterranea) is enormous and I can’t believe any sailor, let alone a captain, would in his wildest dreams think of buzzing the Giglio.

      Capt. Schettino should be called Capt. Cretino, as well as a lot worse names.

      Diana http://www.CuracaowithDiana.com

      • L armond

        The link is beautiful.  I am happy you are there to keep a watch on things.  I shall spend some time with your site later in the day.  Any great perfumes from Curacao?

        • Diana

          No special perfumes that I know of but lots of other cool things.  Incidentally, the liqueur called “Curacao”  really exists to lend color to mixed cocktails, that’s why they sell it in 3 diff colors, but it all tastes the same.

  • R …

    In the air and on the sea being the Captain of any ship means responsibility for your passengers on board as well as the rescue and support people on the surface.

    Captains of airliners are also charged with supervising evacuations and keeping track of those in your charge and during specific operations are also expected to be the last to deplane …  There is more to it than simply looking good in your uniform.

  • Kestral

    Captain Sullenberger is the GOLD STANDARD.

    • Sherpes5

      Sully Sullenberger, a reluctant hero that could not manage well his sudden fame. Very much the same with Gregorio De Falco, of the Capitaneria di Porto (aka coast guard) of Livorno who took over the command and rescue operations.  De Falco is rejecting the calls of “hero”, saying he was just doing his job.  What is interesting is that the two commanders, Schettino and De Falco, are both from the Naples area, thus sharing the same culture and background, and yet they took very different career routes, one in duty and the other in “love” boating. The folks at the Livorno station remember well the consequences of disasters at sea, with memories still fresh of the Moby Prince ferry disaster 20 years ago, in which 140 people died.  And the Tuscan seashore population are instilled with sea lore and culture, of respecting the sea, the so-called “La Legge del Mare”, in which one offers rescue of any floater, regardless of circumstances.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    So for this sinking, J. Bruce Ismay was phoning in, rather than being cowardly while on board.

  • Guest

    Please discuss Maritime Law. This is not a matter of opinion; it’s law.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    If he tripped into a lifeboat, he should have tripped right back out of it and back onto the ship.

  • Sam

    Picard would be ashamed!

  • Joe in Philly

    Just curious, what is the total compensation for a typical cruise ship captain (salary plus bonus, etc.)?

  • Nate

    Nobody would have been screaming, Vada a bordo, Cazzo! at Captain Sully. There’s a true hero for you.

  • Daniel Grant

    I agree with people who see this as a story the media likes to get involved in, but probably has little to say that is meaningful.  This nonsense about a captain going down with his ship is neither legal nor is it necessarily moral.  Since the vast majority of us know nothing about maritime safety factors, most of our chatter is useless speculation.

    As with all situations of this nature, if you failed to plan for this type of emergency ahead of time, you have already lost.  Personally, I would not expect any person to be capable of coordinating an evacuation under the circumstances described.  I would expect the captain to physically assist in evacuation (unless they are elderly).

    We don’t know the precise circumstances.

  • Eric

    I’m curious about the captain’s history: How long has he been employed? What’s been his experience?

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Seven days without food or water??   They took ALL the food and water off the ship?  Who knows whether survivors have found food and water enough to survive?
       Please, DON’T count them dead, until you see the bodies!

  • Keithtucker

    HOW can this happen? Little fishing boats can detect land!!

  • L armond

    Sometimes salvage can not be accomplished if the natives on shore are headhunters, or otherwise will harass the ship’s captain and crew.  This applies to merchant ships and ships of domicile.  Although, in Norfolk Virginia, there was some attempt to disparage a foundered sailing ship/s after high seas foundering on the coast after a storm. They even reported that he lost his bowel contents in a police vehicle, and this was covered in newspapers all over the country.  Losing bowels when you are put in a police car in Norfolk, has never happened before, it seems.  Vomiting, sickness, fear never occurs in Norfolk.  But on many shows, Law & Order, etc., this always comes up.  But never before in Norfolk.  Sailors and Dogs stay away from Norfolk. It never changes. Shame on you Arianna Huffington for carrying anything from a Norfolk paper without checking for facts first. You are Greek, I thought, and familiar with the ship owning class. Or, maybe I am thinking of Jackie O., who did know her ships and captains, and what was a reliable source.

  • Stuart Hancock

    My great uncle was the Titanic captain (“Uncle Ted”), and as far as I know, he made no plans to go down with the ship.  I believe he was last seen swimming and helping people into lifeboats when he disappeared.

    “We don’t talk much anymore” :-).


    - Stuart (Plainfield, VT)

  • Captain Bill R. Newton MA

    Schittino’s story,… he had 2 choices early on in the abandon ship process. He could assist either on the low side (Starboard ) or the high side ( port side ). He could not have stayed on the bridge which was sloping more and more.  Since the life boat activity was probably more intense on the lower side with people boarding life boats and swimming ashore he probably was on that side. At some point as passengers were accomodated in life boats he had no possibility to stay aboard and go to the high side of the boat to command evacuation from that point as he didn’t have mountain climbing gear or training. 

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Is the caller a relative of Jack Thayer?

  • Billsull59

    I’ve stood more than a few bridge watches on naval and merchant vessels and generally there is no easy way to challenge the bad behavior the captain (as perhaps the captain of the Costa vessel should have been). A collision of two airliners in Tenerefe (sp?) several years ago prompted better collaboration between pilot and co-pilot. I think that sense of collaboration and empowerment of all crew members has to exist at sea also.

  • Victoria

    My father was a sea captain, (British Merchant Navy)and as a child I was told that he would go down with his ship if needs be.  He never had to, not in a lifetime of sea going, but during his long absences from home, this was something that was always at the back of my mind, somewhere.  A different aspect of your story.

    • Peter Vas

      Well said, friend. We know how exactly you must feel. We have brothers in our family who are out at sea in the Indian Merchant Navy, and we feel the same way as you do.

  • Gabriel

    interesting show regarding lost ships.What I haven’t heard in the last week regarding the Costa Concordia is the role of naval architecture. These cruise boats are getting shallower and shallower so they can get into more ports, at the same time they are getting higher and higher to accommodate more cabins. Add to this minimal compartmentalization and large areas below which when flooded create free surface, greatly damaging to stability. If they look unstable, it is because they are. Concordia lost it at about 45 degrees; contract this with Flying Enterprise on her beam ends– 80 degrees– for days.
    The fault for this lies in the boardrooms of the cruise companies, and the spineless naval architects who kowtow to them.

    • L armond

      Yes, this was a ‘state of the art’ vessel, which like plastic surgery, can be ‘state of the art’ but have no moral underpinnings whatsoever.  The Bravo channel and others who have suffered from their ‘outpatient’ surgery, tells you exactly that ‘state of the art’ is a manipulative term in all fields.  Tipping point and engineering and architecture ‘safety factors’ are not of interest to those  ‘who must be entertained.’

    • Sherpes5

      interesting comment about architecture.  I was also looking at the ship design, but more about aesthetics.  The front has angular edges, and not soft round edges, wonder what the designer was thinking.   On architecture and how it affects stability, there was a recent change in laws and regulations by coast guard in the US, about what constitutes the average weight of a person, from 160 to 185, with the effect of lowering the occupancy on a passenger boat.  The Lake George tourist boat that capsized is an example of overweight boat.  What this means is that the per/passenger price of such day trips is going to increase.

    • L armond

      Are we talking recovery after tipping?  Seems like there is no safety factor here with those multistories.  Maybe there is a weight that can shift, like ballast, but from the size of the breech, and being near shore, this wouldn’t have been appropriate.  I am not a naval architect, but if this design is ‘state of the art’ then there are no safety factors.  Everyone else is expected to pick up the pieces.  ‘Great Job, Brownie’ was what I thought when I first heard about it.’  And then I thought of Bush and how difficult it was to get him to understand what had occurred after Katrina.  His staff worked mightily to get his attention.
      Even after a fly-by in a copter, he said ‘Great job, Brownie!”  Failure of imagination, I’d say. But no one can criticize him for being frozen with fear after 9-ll. He is not your jump to action type. But on ships, all crew must jump to action, and always man the breech.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Sure, ‘The Decider’ (self-proclaimed, that he was!), gets a ‘pass’ for being ‘frozen with fear’, for fifteen minutes or more, after being told ‘the country is under attack.  It’s not like he had a heads-up earlier, of being told about the first plane?
           ‘The Decider’ NEVER campaigned with pictures of him in flight-suit, in front of a plane, like he was a millitary ‘hero’?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

      Hey Gabe.  You hit the nail on the head.  Now lets expose the people who own these cruise companies.

    • revolve

      more of the same–the corporate-aristocracy will tell you business is not a charity–ship jobs overseas, downsize, and cut corners.  they do not care about people. 

      My advice–stay of these death ships.

  • L armond

    I have in my hand a book “Futility” written by Morgan Robertson, published in 1898, that while fictional, like Conrad, the author knew ships, and passenger ships, and wrote a story just like the Titanic decades before the Titanic went down.

  • Captain Bill Newton MA

    Schittino’s story continued.  Once in a life boat he might have gone around the ship to the port side and climbed aboard via the rope ladders deployed, but that would have interferred with passangers coming down those ladders.  He probably chose at that point, or with that knowledge, that he colud better direct operations from shore.

  • E doss

    What about John Kennedy, PT-109?

  • Yar

    What about chain of command.  In the Navy if the captain is unable to command, the first officer is in charge and held responsible as if captain.  On a private vessel who is next in charge?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    I just want to say Thank you the Filipino crew who helped the passengers of the Concordia. They never abandoned their posts and evacuated the passengers. Mabuhay!!!!

  • Aad

    How about this theory that has been posed?
    The Capt. was paid to make it go down, to hurt the cruise industry.

    • revolve

      why? to what end?

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    The captain isn’t responsible for maritime design, but he is in charge of the ship’s course.  This captain steered too close to a reef.  Then he ran.

  • L armond

    My grandfather, a corpsman on a ship in the pacific, said that Admiral Halsey, the commandant of the fleet, was so afraid of being held down and the pain in the dental chair, that when he was called to get a check up (so he wouldn’t be incapacitated by dental issues) had Marines with bayonets mounted accompany him and the Marines crossed their rifles across the passageway.The Admiral leaned his head in for his examination.  This was understandable and he was never disparaged for this. This was on USS Saratoga. Dental health important in the Navy for sailors and airman. Navy trained dentists are best for hockey teams.

    • X-Ray

      Adm Halsey’s fear and his response to dealing with it didn’t kill any anyone or put those under his care or command at risk and so is not an appropriate analogy to the Concoria’s Capatain’[s disgrace.

      • L armond

        No, and I didn’t imply that.  I was merely pointing out that fear is normal in anyone.  Also, dental pain will take anyone down and make them ‘unfit’ to command, so the teeth of pilots and sailors are checked regularly because they could all be called to man some post.  “He was never disparaged for this fear,” and the corpsman and the dentist had orders to keep his teeth fit and keep him on duty to command.  The Admiral had to was required to appear on the Saratoga for this check up.

        • revolve

          no they are not.  My teeth were checked twice in the navy–the first day and the last.  Dental work is voluntary just like in civil society.

  • Philippa

    More to the point is the fact that Schettino (the captain) lied to the Coastguard when they originally contacted him about a call they had received from the local Carabinieri (police). Apparently they had received a phone call about 30 minutes earlier from a passenger who was aware that something had happened. The carabinieri told the coastguard & they contacted the Costa Concordia, who told them that everything was ok – it was just an electrical fault. The coastguard contacted them about 10 minutes later and were still told that everything was Ok. Presumably the coastguard could have
    rescued everyone if they had known the truth immediately. captain Schettino was scared to admit any wrongdoing to the Coastguard and then compounded this enormous error with abject cowardice by abandoning ship before his passengers and crew. This is what I have gathered from the Italian newspapers and blogs.

  • http://www.fibrowitch.net Jan Dumas

    I use to be an Occupational Safety Engineer. We had to do frequent practices of any emergency that could happen. That was 2 fire drills a year, monthly haz mat practices including wearing our suits.

    For a all emergency response we would ask local groups to come pretend to be injured so we could practice what to do.  This ship should have practiced evacuation based on port or starboard and bow or stern.

  • Osullivan

    This brings to mind the story of John Jacob Astor who was the worlds richest man in 1912, owning ~70% of the island of Manhattan. As the Titanic was going down he famously gave up his seat on a lifeboat to a woman with a child. Valour of days long gone?

    • Yar

      With over 4000 on board and as little loss of life in the disaster of this magnitude.  I would say that valor is alive and well.  Regardless of the actions of the captain.  Any loss of life is regrettable, but we can’t even seem to open a Wal-Mart on Black Friday without someone getting trampled.  

      • Osullivan

        agreed on the last point! Valor in the face of death but not for a waffle maker!

      • X-Ray

        There shoud have been NO loss of life, not the 10 or so already confirmed and not the 20 or so still missing and presumed lost. All due to a manfunctioning Captain who caused the incident, the loss of life, the injuries and the loss of the ship. Sad. He also failed to conduct the required lifeboat instruction and drill.

        • Yar

          People don’t always do what they are told.  Yes, it would been a good idea to have loaded and lowered the lifeboats as soon as the ship was breached.  That is not to say that it would have gone without incident.  Even in the miracle on the Hudson,  the rear plane door was attempted opened by a passenger.  It caused the plane to fill with water more quickly.  My point is, there is no such thing as ‘if history’.  Had the beach been a shallow even slope the ship would have stayed upright.    I would rather take a cruise on a container ship than a cruise line.  But I am more interested in the technology than people.  I don’t drink, gamble, or desire to over eat.  4000 people that want to be pampered is my definition of hell.  
          How many lifeboat drills actually have everyone abandoned ship, including lowering all life boats into the water, in a wide range of sea conditions?  I expect if all cruise lines do full abandoned ship exercises they will cause a few deaths.  That is because people do strange things, technology fails, and not everything goes as planned.

    • revolve

      dont believe it–stories told by the super-rich to make themselves likable by the dead peasants.  Men like that would never demonstrate such valor–otherwise we would not have the culture we do.  It was probably the other way around–he refused to give up his seat for a woman and child.  And of course the women and children were all highborn–the 99% were locked up below to perish and nobody cared.  What valor!  What honor! What courage!  If i were the captain i would have put the 99% in lifeboats first and told the rich to call a taxi.

  • Captain Bill R. Newton MA

    See the AIS records of the track of the ship.  It looks like a very skillful piece of navigation ( after the striking of the rock ! ) to get the ship to the ground apparently relying on wind and bow thrusters alone. Had the decision been made to take the ship to deeper water to abandon ship, it might have been one of the greatest ship disasters ever. ( capsizing in deep water )

  • L armond

    You seldom find valor in any person who is ‘appalled’ and ‘disgusted’ by facts of life.  Men and women in command of others prepare and stay prepared by understanding the facts of life, and psychology of people in crowds.  In the book “How to Abandon Ship,’ prepared by Merchant Seaman Assoc.  All these factors are taken into consideration, in the maintenance of life rafts, the stocking and restocking  of life raft provisions, and in drills, and respect for human nature.’  Ii have passed it on to my grandson, and always I have remembered the part that said to be sure and keep the lifeboats stocked with whisky and cigarettes, as these will be able to assist the frame of mind of those in the life boat to maintain some hope for rescue as they could be there for a long time.  “Smoke them if you got ‘em.’  I can just hear the oblivious class saying “Disgusting!  Harrumph.” right now.  But in Virginia, they will still tax the smoker, and refuse to give access to free patches as other states did.  They rely on smokers to keep their ship afloat, and are just the type of people to abandon ship unless a camera is on them. ‘Pshaw’, you say.  I do say.

  • Sherpes5

    The captain of the Titanic told his crew to “Be British, boys, be British”, and most of them perished, as shown in recent research by behavioral economist David Savage, of Queensland University of Technology.  Now, if one hundred years later, the captain of the Italian cruise ship would have said “Siate Italiani, ragazzi, siate Italiani”, what would have been the outcome? 

  • X-Ray

    Doesn’t “Oh Capatin, My Captain” refer to the loss of President Lincoln and so is not an appropriate analogy to this story and siuation?

    • revolve

      its a perfect analogy–our presidents behave the same way–all for themselves.  cowards.

      and you are being pedantic.  language is about word play.  If everyone were so stodgy we would have no creativity, ever.

  • PT

    When my husband was a commercial fishing boat captain, he took over as a temporary captain for two weeks to cover for the owner/captain. The first night out, the crew member on watch let the boat run aground. As it became clear that the boat was sinking, with waves rocking the boat and washing over the deck, my husband held up the survival suit he grabbed on his way out of the captain’s cabin and told the crew, “Put on your survival suits.” They stared at him and said, “That’s the only one.” The boat owner/captain had bought himself a suit, but not the crew! My husband tossed the suit aside and went over the rail into the North Atlantic with the crew. They all swam to an island and survived. I am proud of my husband who lead with honor. 

  • Anonymous

    The Costa Concordia grounding was bad indeed. But sometimes ships get
    holed by “no fault” events, such as happening onto a left-over WWII

    Preventing future groundings is
    important, but is not fundamentally difficult.

    I am far more concerned by the
    implications of what happened after this ship had its hull torn open. This
    grounding should not have resulted in the loss of life, or the loss of the
    ship, and particularly not so quickly.

    Bill Fowler was too quick to
    dismiss the free surface effect, as brought up by one of the callers. If it is
    true, as reported, that the vessel suddenly went from a port list to a
    starboard list, it is virtually impossible to account for this other than by
    way of the free surface effect.

    Should the free surface effect
    have been allowed to do what it apparently did? As to that, Bill Fowler is
    clearly correct — of course not.

    It appears that this vessel
    experienced a degree of progressive flooding that — one way or another —
    should never have taken place. Either the vessel should have been designed and
    built with a much greater degree of compartmentation than actually was the case
    (and enough to have withstood a hull opening of this extent — reportedly 50
    meters in length), or else the compartmentation that did exist was not properly
    managed on board.

    The first is a question of hull
    design, and the review/approval of the same by authorities (flag state
    authorities; classification society authorities; and possibly even port state
    authorities), and possibly even a question of the demands of the Safety of Life
    at Sea (“SOLAS”) Convention. It may be that this incident will reveal
    that the construction standards — still — are simply not exacting enough in
    terms of providing enough internal barriers to prevent progressive flooding in
    a reasonably foreseeable event such as this grounding.

    Indeed, this is also a question
    that falls onto the cruise industry as a whole, and the owners, such as
    Carnival. It is not necessarily sufficient for them to build these ships to
    MINIMUM standards of compartmentation, especially if the management does not
    have reliable programs in place to prevent “cowboy” maneuvers akin to
    the one that apparently took place here.

    The financial ratings agencies
    were supposed to provide reliable, competent, third-party guidance about the
    soundness of certain investment instruments. The events of the economic
    meltdown 2008 showed how badly they failed. Their counterparts in the maritime
    industry are called classification societies. The one based in the US is called
    the American Bureau of Shipping. Its Italian counterpart is known as RINA. RINA
    was the classification society that had cognizance over the COSTA CONCORDIA.
    Most probably, RINA reviewed and approved the builders’ plans for the
    construction of this ship, oversaw the ongoing construction, and certified that
    both were sound. This would have included the extent to which the vessel had
    enough compartmentation that she could close internal doors, etc., and isolate
    the source of flooding, such as took place on Friday the 13th.

    It is quite possible that RINA
    also carried out periodic inspection of this vessel after launch, while in
    ongoing operations. Reputable websites reflect her as having had some form of
    inspection as recently as November 2011, but this might have been by some
    entity other than RINA.

    One thing that is striking is
    that the CEO of RINA suddenly resigned this week. Perhaps this is a
    coincidence. But it surely is worth looking into. We have just seen
    construction inspectors in NYC being convicted for accepting bribes. The same
    would not be out of the question here.

    However, it is quite possible
    that the ship was built with enough compartmentation, that is, that she could
    have closed off enough internal doors, etc., that the flooding would have been
    confined to a comparatively small portion of the hull. If this could have been
    accomplished, the vessel probably would have ended up with a manageable list to
    port, and no loss of life, and no loss of the ship.

    If the vessel was properly
    built in this regard, the question then is why on earth was the flooding not
    confined? Why was the flooding allowed to progress? This would be a question of
    on board management, and training in damage control procedures. Such a failing
    would reflect badly on the master, of course. But with a crew numbering in the
    four figures, the issue transcends any single master. These officers transfer
    on and off these ships, and the training of this many people in such emergency
    procedures must be ongoing (regardless of who is master), as a matter of
    company policy and management.

    It will be weeks before we know
    which was the source of the problem, but the progressive flooding that must
    have happened is utterly intolerable. Either it means that construction
    standards must be significantly strengthened as to compartmentation, or that
    on-board training and procedures for proper closure of watertight doors, etc.
    must be comprehensively re-examined, and possibly overhauled.   Or both

    Another major concern is the
    report that the ship was plunged into darkness. This ship should have been
    built with emergency generators in locations far above the waterline, and thus
    not vulnerable to water flooding into an engine room. And presumably with
    proper battery-powered light fixtures that would themselves be independent of
    any generator.   The reports strongly
    suggest something seriously wrong in this respect. 

    Comparably frightening are the
    reports that the vessel reported ashore that they were merely experiencing an
    electrical shortcoming. There are abundant reports that even passengers noticed
    the jarring of the impact of the hull with the bottom, and any impact capable
    of ripping open the hull (as depicted) would have been assuredly felt and
    recognized by any experienced seafarer. More than that, the opening would have
    begun to flood spaces immediately, quite probably an engine room. This wuold
    have been reported to the master immediately. The reports radioed ashore
    suggest that there must have been a coverup going on, and this seems to be
    consistent with the “not to worry” announcements made on the PA to
    the passengers at a time when the master should have had all passengers moving
    immediately to their lifeboat stations. Assuming this logic is correct, it
    points to something that is genuinely scandalous.

    Finally, the reports that seem
    to point toward a coverup lead to another ominous possibility that needs to be
    investigated. This has to do with the report (noted at the top) that the vessel
    began with a port list and then suddenly shifted to a starboard list. For this
    to happen almost surely requires tons of water in the hull that is unconfined
    (i.e., with a free surface) such that it can slosh from one side of the vessel
    to the other (or nearly so). If it sloshed, it could cause the ship to
    “flop” from a port list to a starboard list. But linked to this is
    the question, what made it slosh to begin with?  Wave action COULD do so, but the reports seem
    to be of calm seas. There seems to be at least one report that the vessel made
    a turn to port. It is conceivable that if it was a sharp turn at speed, it
    could have caused the vessel to heel over to starboard, and induce a “flop.”

    But the inference of coverup
    above leads to one other possibility. That is the possibility that the master
    sought to avoid having the passengers FEEL the ship listing to port, by pumping
    ballast water (or fresh water, or fuel) into tanks on the starboard side. This
    might have been somewhat successful for a time, but in the longer term, if it
    happened, it would have been a devil’s bargain. This is because the weight
    intentionally concentrated on the starboard side could have made for a fatal
    situation in the event that the ship eventually did “flop” due to
    floodwaters sloshing from the port side to the starboard side. The combination
    of the pumped ballast water and/or fresh water and/or fuel on the starboard
    side, coupled with the “sloshed” floodwaters, might have been enough
    to put the vessel onto an extreme list to starboard, from which she might never
    recover. Presumably, the testimony of the crew will bring this to light, but
    the possibility should be kept in mind.

    As before, the grounding was
    bad indeed. But a disaster of this magnitude almost always involves a
    combination of multiple points of failure. It is thus very important to be sure
    that a fixation on the navigational error does not obscure the other points
    described above that seem to be genuinely possible, and very important.

    My quals: Deepsea master’s
    license; Captain (ret.) USCGR; faculty at a maritime academy; admiralty lawyer.

    • L armond

      Thank  you sir for the complete elucidation of failure points, and scenarios of the possible origins of the sequence of events as described by the passengers.  I, too, couldn’t figure out why no emergency lights.  I often wonder where the emergency generators are located in vital facilities in Norfolk, Virginia.  I wish I could ask about the hospital, police headquarters, etc., as we are prone to flooding more in nor’easters than hurricanes lately.  
      I often wonder what state-of-the art consulting is in my locality.  I wouldn’t want us to be a Katrina on the Bay.  They have Mermaids all over the city as the symbol of the city, but I think they should read about Sirens, too.

  • revolve

    this captain is no different than all our ‘elected’ officials.  Our presidency.

  • revolve

    captains are not expected to ‘go down with the ship’ but are expected to get everyone to safety. 

    i personally feel most would not–civilian or military-if the ship is in imminent danger, I believe the commanding officers would do some things to prevent loss of life but then they would take emergency flight–abandoning ship and crew.  Especially if they are members of the highborne class.

    The guest is pathetic–he is making ridiculous excuses for this captain.  he should get in a job in washington dc.

  • Bimal757

    Great Talk on the Subject, how about providing Life
    jackets in each and every cabin and all the crowded places on the ship like the Dinning room, casino, and the
    Main deck where people Gather, just like the airplane where there is a life jacket under every seat. This as Tom was discussing with guest speakers about what Training. Life jacket access would be one of the easy accessibility feature which would reduce the burden on the captain and crew members of handling chaos. Less operational costs to the owner of the ship, faster communication

  • Anonymous

    One of the callers asked the question as if noble/not so noble behaviors at sea were cultural (taking the example of the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm, there was panic on the Andrea Doria and none on the Stockholm).
    Both ships collided in heavy fog and under radar (although not very powerful ones). Apparently the Stockholm was at fault and ended up striking the Andrea Doria at its most vulnerable (side).
    The Stockholm hitting from the bow, could close its watertight forward compartment and navigate under its own power for repairs. No such luck for the Andrea Doria which took on water with limit time to evacuate its passengers.
    Interestingly enough, it was a French liner, SS Ile de France which turned around and taking enormous risks, rescued the majority of the Andrea Doria passengers. 

    The British guest from London emphasized that myth of anglo-saxon superiority at sea, explaining that there had not been any panic on the Titanic and that it reflected on the anglo-saxon cool and heroism (I am paraphrasing).
    The guest seemed to forget that the reason the Titanic lost so many people is that another British ship, the liner California was only a few miles away and the reason its captain did not want to go investigate the Titanic’s flares and signals was that he was too afraid to navigate by night in the middle of an ice field.
    Also, if some book authors who were aboard the Titanic kept emphasizing that there was no panic at all and that it was part of that superior anglo-saxon upbrigning (Colonel Gracie among others), the truth is there was panic. One should not forget that 1/3 of the passengers saved from the Titanic were  crews and were on lifeboats. It is interesting to note that in those stories, the only examples of people trying to jump in the lifeboats were either Italian, Chinese, Japanese or maybe French!
    Interesting that the French members of the crew of Titanic did not make it and all went down with the ship.

    There is no superiority anywhere. There are humans in leadership positions faced with life or death situations.

    • L armond

      I am not sure, but things floating below the surface, like logs, are known as deadmen, I believe.  That is why they sink ships that can’t be salvaged, complete with a hole to prevent it rising again to do more mischief.

  • Slipstream

    It is interesting to see Captain Schettino getting hammered in the media for not staying with his vessel.  I am not saying he doesn’t deserve it.  But others in recent years have behaved with similar irresponsibility and selfishness, and gotten away scot-free.  What about our captains of industry, who capsized our economy, and were never expected to see to the safety of their passengers or to go down with their ships?  When are some of these captains going to start getting the media treatment that they have so clearly earned?

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