Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Costa CEO blames captain error for ship grounding

ROME (AP) — The jailed captain of the cruise ship that capsized off Tuscany made an unauthorized deviation from the programmed course, a blunder that led to its ddly crash against a reef, the ship's Italian owner said Monday.
Italian firefighters' scuba divers approach the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia which ran aground a day rlier off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012. The incident sent water pouring in through a 160-foot (50-meter) gash in the hull and forced the evacuation of some 4,200 people from the listing vessel rly Saturday, the Italian coast guard said. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)Rescue operations were halted, mnwhile, after the Costa Concordia shifted in rough ss and frs mounted that any further shifts could cause some of the 500,000 gallons of fuel on board to into the pristine waters off the island of Giglio that are a protected dolphin sanctuary.
The confirmed dth toll rose to six after srchers found the body of a male passenger wring a life vest in the corridor of the above-water portion of the ship. Sixteen people are unaccounted for, including two American passengers.
Chances that they would be found alive three days after the ship was spred by the reef and toppled to one side grew slimmer.
The Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, was arrested and jailed rly Saturday, a few hours after Friday's night shipwreck a few hundred meters (yards) off Giglio, a tiny island of fishermen and tourist hotels nr the Tuscan coast in west central Italy.
Prosecutors who are investigating the captain for manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck stepped up their shing criticism of his conduct.
"We are struck by the unscrupulousness of the reckless maneuver that the commander of the Costa Concordia made nr the island of Giglio," prosecutor Francesco Verusio told reporters. "It was inexcusable."
A judge on Tuesday is expected to decide if the captain should be charged and remain jailed in Grosseto on the mainland.
Costa Crociere SpA chairman and CEO Pier Luigi Foschi said the company would provide him legal assistance, but he disassociated Costa from his behavior, saying it broke all rules and regulations.
"Capt. Schettino took an initiative of his own will which is contrary to our written rules of conduct," Foschi said in his first public comments since the grounding.
At a news conference in oa, the company's home base, Foschi said that Costa ships have their routes programmed, and alarms go off when they deviate. Those alarms are disabled if the ship's course is manually altered, he said.
"This route was put in correctly upon departure from Civitavecchia," Foschi said, referring to the port outside Rome. "The fact that it left from this course is due solely to a maneuver by the commander that was unapproved, unauthorized and unknown to Costa."
Foschi didn't respond directly to prosecutors' and passengers' accusations that Schettino abandoned ship before all passengers had been evacuated, but he suggested his conduct wasn't as bad in the hours of the evacuation as has been portrayed. He didn't elaborate.
The Italian coast guard says Schettino defied their entrties for him to return to his ship as the chaotic evacuation of the 4,200 people aboard was in full progress. After the ship's tilt put many life rafts out of service, helicopters had to pluck to safety dozens of people remaining aboard, hours after Schettino was seen lving the vessel.
The captain has insisted in an interview before his jailing that he stayed with the vessel to the end.
Foschi defended the conduct of the crew, while acknowledging that passengers had described a chaotic evacuation where crew members consistently downplayed the seriousness of the situation as the 300 meter-long (nrly 1,000 foot-long) ship lurched to the side.
"All our crew members behaved like heroes. All of them," he said.
He noted that 4,200 people managed to evacuate a lilting ship at night within two hours. In addition, the ship's evacuation procedures had been reviewed last November by an outside firm and port authorities and no faults were found, he said.
Costa owner Carnival Corp. estimated that preliminary losses from having the Concordia out of operation for at lst through 2012 would be between $85 million and $95 million, though it said there would be other costs as well.
Why the ship sailed so close to the dangerous reefs and rocks that jut off Giglio's stern coast is not clr, but there have been suspicions the captain may have ventured too close while carrying out a maneuver to entertain islanders and passengers.
Residents of Giglio said they had never seen the Concordia, which makes a weekly Mediterrann cruise that passes the Tuscan coast, come so close to the dangerous reef ar nr the southern tip of the island.
Foschi said only once before had the company approved a navigational "fly by" of this sort — last yr on the night of Aug. 9-10. In that case, the port and company had approved it.
The rescue operation was called off at midday Monday after the Concordia shifted a few inches (centimeters) in rough ss. Just beyond where the gashed ship lies, the sbed drops off quickly by some 20-30 meters (65-100 feet); if the Concordia suddenly drops, any divers participating in the rescue operation could be doomed.
There are also rising frs that any significant movement could send some 500,000 gallons of fuel into the pristine waters around the island of Giglio, which is a protected sanctuary for dolphins and other s crtures popular with scuba divers.
Even before the accident there had been mounting calls from environmentalists to restrict passage of large ships in the ar.
Costa executive Costa said that the Rotterdam, Netherlands, based Smit, one of the world's biggest salvagers, will try to salvage the 290-meter (1,000 foot) cruise liner and would provide a study by Tuesday on how to extract the fuel.
Smit has a long track record of dling with wrecks and s, including refloating grounded bulk carriers and securing drilling platforms in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A spokesman for Smit, which is part of dredging and maritime services giant Royal Boskalis Westminster NV, did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the Concordia salvage.
Source:The Associated Press

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