Earlier today, a press conference held in
Genoa, chaired by Pier Luigi Foschi, Chairman and CEO of Costa Crociere,
revealed a number of facts concerning
the accident of Costa Concordia. As yet
without being in possession of all the facts, the line did its best to explain
the disaster, defend its position, and express it condolences to the families
of those who had perished, Alan Lam reports.
It was confirmed that the reason for the
ship to be sailing off course was because the captain wished to give his guests
a better view of the shore scene and to salute the island of Giglio on Friday
the 13th of January, a feast day in Catholic Italy.
The crew was aware of the captain’s
intention but was powerless to interfere, as the captain is the supreme
commander of the vessel. In general, the rule of the company does not allow
deviation from the course; but the captain has the power to change course if he
deems necessary on account of bad weather or other unfavourable sailing
Under normal circumstances, if a vessel
goes off course, an alarm would sound on the bridge, unless the computerised
navigation system (which is always connected to the GPS) was deliberately overridden.
In this case the alarm did not go off.
It is now looking increasingly likely that this
accident was largely due to a human error. A few passengers have reported that
they had seen the captain drinking alcohol during dinner. The accident happened
3.5 hours after the ship set sail from Civitavecchia. During that time the
captain was not always present on the bridge. He was not required to do so. But
he was there at the time of the accident. It is expedient to add that, during
that time, the bridge manning level was above requirement.
On the question concerning drug and
alcohol, Foschi was unable to confirm either way; but he was adamant that all Costa
crew, without exception, were subject to random and regular testing, and that
as far as he knew Captain Francesco Schettino was not a alcohol drinker. But
the master is under investigation as to whether he had left the ship prior to
his responsibility concerning the evacuation procedure ended.
It was repeatedly emphasized that this was
an extremely rare occurrence. “We always have safety and security in mind,”
said Foschi. “We provide the highest level of training for our staff. Every other
week a full safety drill takes place involving the entire crew.” He thanked the
crew of Costa Concordia for doing a good job in evacuating the ship in two
hours, stressing that the procedure was carried out under a set of very
difficult circumstances. According to him, the crew had “responded adequately”
to the disaster. Because of the severe list, the evacuation could only be
carried out on one side of the vessel, which was why many passengers had to
wait for more than an hour for their turn in the lifeboats. This is one area
the line will be looking to improve in the future.
When questioned as to why the safety drill
had not been carried out prior the accident. Foschi quoted the regulation
requirement of it being carried out within 24 hours of the vessel setting sail.
Despite the question, Costa Concordia had complied with this rule.
He underlined that shipping companies had
to adhere to very stringent safety rules. Costa was not only in compliance to all the international
safety regulations; it went beyond them by “adopting spontaneous checks and
carrying out tests.” He pointed out that he was not yet in possession of all
the information to enable him to understand the entire cycle of the accident.
Costa was still waiting for the content of the “Black Box” and footages from
the ships cameras to be released to them by the legal authority. It would give
them more information on the sequence of events leading up to the impact.
Two facts were established: Costa was able
to confirm that the captain had contacted the marine department at 10.05PM on
Friday night to inform them of the accident; the listing was caused by the
ingress of water.
Costa Concordia was a very contemporary
ship, equipped with the latest navigation system. The ship was certified by
both Italian and US coastguards in accordance to the highest possible
international maritime safety standards. As a part of the certification renewal
audit, Costa Concordia was inspected as recently as November 2011, during a
journey from Malta to Civitavecchia, and was found to be in compliance with all
related safety rules.
The immediately concern after the rescue
operation will be to debunker the ship and to remove her from site. There is
about 2,300 tonnes of fuel onboard, including 17 tanks full of heavy fuel and
four tanks full of oil. Debunker is urgently required to avoid any potential
environmental disaster. There is as yet no evidence of any leakage.
Costa will face compensation and other
financial issues. Foschi stated that the disaster occurred on Friday night and
it was still too early to find out the extend of cancellations on future Costa
cruises. He accepted that there would be negative impacts on the cruise
business as a whole and Costa in particular. He hoped that this would only be a
short time. Costa was a company with a good track record and, he was sure,
would “emerge as strong as before.”
Yesterday, Carnival Corp & plc, which
owns Costa Crociere, had published financial information relating to this
accident in compliance with the stock market regulations. The group expected
the damage to cost in the region of $95 million, excluding compensation. Foschi
insisted that the Carnival group as a whole, and Costa in particular, had a
strong balance sheet to absorb the probable expenditure.
As to whether or not the vessel is
salvageable, this is still under evaluation.
On behalf of Costa Crociere, the Chairman
expressed his deepest condolences to the families of those who had perished.
And issued sincere apologies to its guests and crew.