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CESMA News, March 2012 PDF Drukāt E-pasts
Pirmdiena, 02 aprīlis 2012 00:00
THE EUROPEAN UNION SHIPMASTER INFORMATION CHRONICLE
 
CONFEDERATION OF EUROPEAN SHIPMASTERS’ASSOCIATIONS
 
Opinions expressed in articles are those of the sources and/or authors only.
Italian CESMA Member Association, Collegio Nazionale Capitani, expresses its deepest condolences to the people who lost their lives as a consequence of the accident with the Costa Concordia. They feel very close to the families of passengers and crew and share their sorrow. Too much has been said in these dark days in the history of the Italian Merchant Marine. About the causes of the accident which lead to the capsizing and part sinking of one of the most modern cruise ships and to the loss of life or missing of over 30 people, we trustfully will wait for the official investigation and the final inquiries before drawing a conclusion. This sad page in the glorious book of our Merchant Marine, that anyhow does not threaten our believe in safety at sea, can not be prejudical and is not able to throw mud on a category of professional seafarers who continue to work at sea, day by day taking care of people and goods all over the oceans of the world.
 
THE ACCIDENT WITH THE COSTA CONCORDIA
 
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Capt. Schettino after his arrest 
Immediately after the spectacular accident in which the Italian cruiseliner ”Costa Concordia” hit an underwater rock and capsized near the island of Giglio in Italy, the media have widely dedicated attention to about every aspect of the disaster. Although there is mediocre praise for the crew in handling the disembarkation of the passengers, most negative attention goes to the master of the ship, Captain Francesco Schettino. In fact, he was not only critisized but also made ridiculous and criminalized by some newspapers. Also the broadcasted conversation between the commander of the Coastguard and the Captain was unprecedented. We consider this public prosecution of a colleague shipmaster an affront to the entire maritime profession. The effects will be felt for a long time ahead as the reliance on the capabilities of the most important and responsible person on board is from now on thoroughly questioned. Who are benefitting from this media hype? Certainly not the entrepeneurs and the customers of the cruiseline industry which is becoming more and more popular and provides for a serious and welcome input in the indigent European maritime industry. There are indeed indications that serious errors in judgement and navigation and consequent handling of the emergency situation have been made, but no official investigation findings into the accident have sofar been made public. We anticipate that a very difficult and responsible task lies ahead for the Italian maritime authorities who will take part in the official investigation. We wish them courage and wisdom to come out with just and instructive conclusions which will be useful for the entire maritime industry and the cruiseline industry in particular.
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A moment of horror for every shipmaster
 
Captain Schettino is an experienced shipmaster who has tackled the disaster in his own way. He had no experience in dealing with such a large accident (who has?) and he acted as he thought right on the moment. If he acted wrongly, this will come out when the case will become before the Italian court of maritime investigation in one or two years from now. Meanwhile we will have no other option than to guess what really happened. Only Captain Schettino and the officer(s), present on the bridge of the vessel during the accident, know exactly. If they are found guilty of all the charges already raised against them, they will be penalized accordingly. 
The most probable cause of the accident was a navigational error in navigating the vessel too close to an extreme and rocky point of the island of Giglio. The reason for passing this, and other islands near the Italian coast, at short distance, is said to be customary for the company Costa 
Crociere, in order to greet inhabitants of the Italian islands en route in such a way that it provides a spectacular experience for the tourists on board and ashore. 
This custom has been practiced for many years and it can only be imagined that calculated risks in doing this were regular practice. Only this time, the calculations were wrong. A steering failure or a moment of distraction on the bridge are the probable causes of the accident. The 
reaction by the inhabitants of the island that the relevant rocks have always been known, does not correspond with the reaction of the master who maintained that they were not charted or marked. A study of the (ECDIS) charts used, will give clarity on this. Relying on charts at such a close range is always a gamble but experienced navigators are aware that in some areas this is unavoidable. In this case there was no bsolute necessity to take such risks but for providing entertainment to the passengers. In this respect it is common knowledge that more and more cruise companies are looking for, so far, undiscovered areas providing adventure and excitement for their passengers such as the polar egions and other unknown areas of the wet globe. These developments put an extra burden and responsibility on the shoulders of the crew, in articular the master. 
The ultimate responsibility in the case of the ”Costa Concordia” lies with the master even when the navigational error is made by somebody else on the bridge. Taking the risks of which he must have been aware, are inexcusable even under commercial pressure. Question marks can 
also be placed regarding the time lost before the order to abandon ship were given. Was the master convinced that the vessel would only slowly sink, giving the passengers ample time to disembark if necessary? This, after all, proved to be a incorrect assumption. Was this another wrong judgement or have the watertight doors not been closed in time, in which there is also a huge responsibility for which a guilty person will be sought. 
According to a recent recording of the conversation on the bridge, orders to close all watertight doors have been given, but was this in time? rom the moment the vessel started listing, it was obvious that free surface water was gaining influence on the stability and that capsizing ecame inevitable. It became clear that, because of the underwater hull damage, water had entered into three longitudinal compartments including the engineroom whereas the safety construction of the vessel permitted only two compartments to be flooded with all watertight doors closed to prevent the vessel from capsizing. From conversations and interviews broadcasted meanwhile, it could not be concluded that responsible officers were fully aware of damage stability conditions after the facts of the damage became clear. 
Lessons to be learned have to be made public as soon as possible in order to avoid any reoccurrences. A period as long as one or two years appears to be an very long period in this respect. The answer on why Captain Schettino did what he did before, during and after the disaster must be made available as soon as possible. It can be called a miracle that so many of the unfortunate passengers survived. Lessons learned from crowd management courses have worked and many on board and ashore have played a heroic part in saving lives. This should not be forgotten. Every insider is aware of the impact in rescuing so many people of all ages and health conditions from a capsizing vessel where 
panic actions cannot be avoided. Condolences from our CESMA members go to the families and relatives of those who could not be rescued. This has been a black day for the European maritime cruise industry and for the entire Italian maritime community. 
 
CESMA will be following this process closely in order to safeguard a rightful and fair judgement of everyone involved in the accident. 
 
On 3rd March the first on hearing on the accident took place in the main theatre of the Tuscan city of Grosseto. There was a massive interest from lawyers, survivors and the press. Captain Schettino did not appear for security reasons. He stays under arrest in his home near Naples. Meanwhile we have heard reactions from, among others, from the lawyer of Captain Schettino, Bruno Leporatti, who admitted that mistakes were made on board but that also his client was only a human being and that he deserved a decent process. Meanwhile the Chief Officer of the ”Costa Concordia”, Ciro Ambrosio, has admitted that he had the con on the moment of the accident and that Captain Schettino depended on his information. 
It was announced that Captain Schettino will give his opinion on the accident in a book to be written in cooperation with an American journalist. He does not rely anymore on Italian journalists who accused him of cowardice. The next courtcase will be on 21rst July. 
 
For more CESMA news click on link: CESMA newsletter March 2012