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The court in Italy has this evening announced a verdict of Guilty against Captain Schettino. He faced charges of manslaughter arising from the the deaths of 32 crew members and passengers caused by the sinking of Costa Concordia in January 2012. He has been sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Throughout the trial he had claimed that he had in effect saved many lives by successfully steering the ship into a position where it could rest safely on an underwater ledge after it had been holed by rocks during a close-approach ‘salute’ to Isolo del Giglio. However, experts who reviewed the ship’s course after the impact said that it was effectively out of control after the impact and it ended up resting on the (underwater) rocky ledge by fortunate accident. On this point, the official report says this:-

“It is worth to point out that the second grounding occurred in a sheltered area of the Giglio island results, according with the VDR data, enough fortuitous. The ship, as already showed, lost immediately her propulsion and even the steering; she only drifted, becoming not manoeuvrable.”

The english language version of the accident report can be found here, and that quote is drawn from section 4.7. The english is a little fractured, but the report is understandable.

He also argued that he wasn’t the only one at fault – he blamed the helmsman who misunderstood an order and initially steered the ship the wrong way, and he also blamed his officers for not being more pro-active with him during the approach to Giglio – though as I understand it, an officer who questions a captain’s actions can find themselves in trouble for questioning the captain’s actions….

Comment: So that is the end, I think, of the formal procedures following this disaster. Speaking as a cruise passenger and enthusiast, I’m pleased that the guilty verdict has been reached and that he has been imprisoned. Throughout the affair it’s been clear that this tragedy was the result of one man’s carelessness and professional failure, and that man was Captain Schettino.

The cruise industry and the IMO must now examine the disaster and introduce whatever safety measures are appropriate. I note that the cruise industry, via the CLIA, has already adopted as best practice the policy that muster drills for newly-embarked passengers should be done before the ship departs the port of embarkation, rather than within 24 hours of departure as permitted by the IMO regulations. Here’s a link to the webpage announcing that policy.

Finally, we must remember that the completion of the legal process, and indeed policy changes such as that mentioned above will not bring back those who died in the water that night. I’m sure their families still feel their loss.

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