Tag Archives: cruise

COSTA CONCORDIA: Carnival boss, a ghost?

From The Independent (United Kingdon), 2012.01.25. :

The US owner of the passenger liner wrecked off the Italian coast 12 days ago with the loss of up to 32 lives was accused last night of failing to take responsibility for the tragedy, as prosecutors shone a light on failed safety procedures.

Angry consumer groups are demanding to know why Micky Arison, the billionaire head of Costa Cruise’s Miami-based parent company, Carnival Corporation, has failed to make an appearance on the island of Giglio, where passengers’ bodies are still being dragged out of the wrecked Costa Concordia.

Kendall Carver, president of the US-based International Cruise Victims group, said: “The response, or lack of it, by Carnival is disgraceful. This is a PR disaster for the company.”

Meanwhile, yesterday, the La Repubblica newspaper, commenting on Mr Arison’s low profile, asked: “Who is this mysterious boss and how has he managed to remain like a ghost since the tragedy?” One US lawyer specialising in maritime law, Jim Walker of Walker and O’Neill Partners, said on his blog that Carnival executives “were close behind the disgraced captain Francesco Schettino in trying to ruin their reputations”.

He added: “Arison admittedly expressed his condolences from the comfort of his 200ft luxury yacht in the Miami area. But carefully crafted corporate PR statements go only so far.

“He failed to appear at the scene. How hard is it to hop in a Gulfstream jet and fly to Rome and then head over to the island of Giglio? In Miami, we hear snickering that as the Costa Concordia sits on its side with dead passengers still trapped inside, some of the Carnival executives have been seen gallivanting around town at black-tie gala parties and even Miami Heat professional basketball games.”

Beniamino Deidda, the state prosecutor of Tuscany, the coast of which would be devastated should the Concordia’s 2,400 tonnes of fuel oil leak out, also launched a fierce attack on the owners of the liner that crashed after its captain made a showboating manoeuvre close to shore. “Who chose the captain?” he asked. “We need to turn our attention to the decision made higher up by the employer, ie the shipping company.”

Italy’s Codacons consumer group is launching a class-action suit over the disaster. A spokesman said last night: “We are launching the action against both Costa and Carnival of Miami. We consider them both responsible.”

A spokesman for Costa Cruises said the firm would not comment while prosecutors investigated. Carnival said: “Micky Arison and the management team of Carnival Corporation have been in continuous contact with the Costa executive team in Italy.”

[A statement carefully crafted to reveal nothing, except, it would seem, that Carnival is protecting itself while leaving the passengers, who trusted them, in the dark — as they were on January 13.]

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Costa Cruise Disaster: Spotlight Shifts to Carnival – Where’s Micky?


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COSTA CONCORDIA: ‘Character problem’ comment adds fuel to the legal fire

Excerpt from Whitsunday Times (Australia), 2012.01.23. Bolds are mine — I don’t think any comment is necessary:

The legal disaster engulfing the owners of the Costa Concordia liner appeared to be deepening last night following the company’s admission that staff were aware of the captain’s “character problems” ahead of the accident that claimed up to 32 lives.

The capsized liner’s commander, Captain Francesco Schettino, who appears to have fled the vessel ahead of his passengers after crashing it into rocks off the Italian coast 10 days ago, is under house arrest and could be charged with manslaughter.

Victims’ groups and compensation lawyers are now looking at comments made by the Costa Cruises chief executive, Pier Luigi Foschi, to the Corriere Della Sera newspaper, in which he said: “He [Schettino] may have the odd little character problem, although nothing has ever been reported formally. He was seen as being a little hard on his colleagues. He liked to be in the limelight.”

Last night, Carlo Rienzi, the president of Italy’s national consumer group Codacons, said: “These comments [by Mr Foschi] will form part of the basis for our class action.” Codacons is seeking a minimum of A10,000 compensation for all passengers.

Kendall Carver, president of the US-based International Cruise Victims group, said: “It’s astonishing that company officials were aware of these ‘character problems’ but allowed him to have responsibility for over 4,000 people.”

Costa Cruises did not wish to comment while judicial inquiries were underway.


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COSTA CONCORDIA: The blame game is not one-sided after all

Edited from Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/22/us-italy-ship-idUSTRE80D08220120122), 2011.01.22. Bolds, italics and text in brackets are mine:

The operators of the Costa Concordia faced questions over their share of the blame for the shipwreck, as divers recovered another body from the stricken liner on Sunday, bringing the known death toll to 13.

Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of steering the 290 meter-long cruise ship too close to shore while performing a maneuver known as a “salute” in which liners draw up very close to land to make a display.

Schettino, who is charged with multiple manslaughter and with abandoning ship before the evacuation of its 4,200 passengers and crew was complete, has told prosecutors he had been instructed to perform the maneuver by operator Costa Cruises.


Costa Cruises have said they were not aware of any unsafe approaches so close to the shore and have suspended Schettino, saying he was responsible for the disaster.

According to transcripts of his hearing with investigators, Schettino has disputed that claim, saying Costa had insisted on the maneuver to please passengers and attract publicity.

[I would not be surprised: that fits in Costa’s corporate culture. As Mr Foschi, Costa’s CEO, said a few days ago, the company “don’t scrimp on signalling, safety and supervision systems. But we are, of course, in the business of making dreams come true” — see https://safewaters.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/costa-concordia-safety-foundation-questions-costa-cruises-treatment-of-master/).]

“It was planned, we should have done it a week earlier but it was not possible because of bad weather,” Schettino said.

“They insisted. They [Costa] said: ‘We do tourist navigation, we have to be seen, get publicity and greet the island’.”

[1. Again, the corporate culture. He was a company man, after all. 2. My wife just noted: “now they’ve got a lot of publicity, huh?”]

Italian newspapers have also published photographs of the Costa Concordia apparently performing the “salute” close to other ports including Syracuse in Sicily and the island of Procida, which is near Naples and Schettino’s hometown of Meta di Sorrento.

Schettino also said the black box on board had been broken for two weeks and he had asked for it to be repaired, in vain.

[I wonder if that happened in the aviation industry! The VDR is required by the SOLAS Convention. Its failure is definitely a deficiency, and indicates that there might have been others.]

In the hearing, Schettino insisted he had informed Costa’s headquarters of the accident straight away, and his line of conduct had been approved by the company’s marine operations director throughout a series of phone conversations.

He acknowledged, however, not raising the alarm with the coastguard promptly and delaying the evacuation order.

“You can’t evacuate people on lifeboats and then, if the ship doesn’t sink, say it was a joke. I don’t want to create panic and have people die for nothing,” he said.

[Schettino uses the present tense for past events, as if he was back there. Was that reasoning part of his decision-making process regarding abandonment of the ship?]

Costa, a unit of Carnival Corp, the world’s largest cruise line operator, says Schettino lied to the company and his own crew about the scale of the emergency.

Documents from his hearing with a judge say he had shown “incredible carelessness” and a “total inability to manage the successive phases of the emergency.”

Taped conversations show ship’s officers told coastguards who were alerted by passengers that the vessel had only had a power cut, even after those on board donned lifevests.


Adding to the growing debate about the ship’s safety standards, Franco Gabrielli – head of Italy’s Civil Protection authority which is coordinating the rescue operations – said a number of unregistered passengers may have been on board.

[It’s not only the ship’s safety standards that are under close scrutiny, but Costa’s — and Carnival’s.]

Relatives of a missing Hungarian woman told authorities she was on the Costa Concordia with a member of the crew, but her name was not on the list of passengers, he said.

“In theory, there could be an unknown number of people who were on the ship and have not been reported missing because they were not registered,” Gabrielli said.

Of the 13 bodies found, only 8 had been identified – four French nationals, an Italian, a Hungarian, a German and a Spaniard. At least 20 people are still unaccounted for.




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CRUISE SAFETY: Did the EU ignore expert warnings?

A disturbing text by Christopher Booker, columnist of The Telegraph (read the whole column at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/9030330/The-EU-ignored-years-of-expert-warnings-on-cruise-ship-safety.html). The brackets, bolds and italics are mine:

When the headlines were filled last weekend with the sinking of the Costa Concordia, I checked the entry for the doomed cruise liner on Wikipedia and was intrigued to see that the ship was named in honour of “continuing harmony, unity, and peace between European nations” (as confirmed by the “ring of stars” shown prominently on its prow). What an apt metaphor, I mused, for the fate of that other monument to European harmony, the euro, which seems similarly to be half-sunk on a rocky ledge from which at any moment it may slide off to the bottom.

But there then came to light a much more disturbing link between the ill-fated liner and the EU. Regulating for the safety of ships is a “competence” long since handed over to Brussels. It emerges (through the researches of my colleague Richard North on his EU Referendum blog) that a whole series of studies, funded by the EU, has been carried out since 2004 by an international team of experts, led by Professor Dracos Vassalos of the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, warning of precisely the disaster that followed the holing of the Costa Concordia.

The problem repeatedly addressed by Professor Vassalos and his team is what happens to cruise liners when they are holed below the waterline. Because of the network of bulkheads now customary in such “mega ships”, even small amounts of water which break in may be forced to the ship’s opposite side, causing it quickly to capsize.

“As the hull is breached,” one of their papers says [on item 4.2 (a)] , “water may rush through various compartments, substantially reducing stability even when the floodwater amount is small. As a result the ship could heel to large angles – letting water into the upper decks that spreads rapidly through these spaces and may lead to rapid capsize.” Hence what happened to the Costa Concordia, which was holed on the port side but after grounding, which forced water across the ship, then listed dramatically to starboard.

Prof Vassalos and his colleagues have been warning of this with increasing urgency for eight years. As they put it in [the summary of] a paper published in 2007 by the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, “the regulatory system is stretched to breaking point”. But even though their researches were part-funded by the EU, it took no notice of their findings. In 2009, for instance, it issued a new directive adding little to one from 1998 before this fatal design flaw had come to light.

One reason, it seems, for the EU’s extraordinary failure on this issue is that regulation for ship safety is handled at a global level by the International Maritime Organisation, which moves at an even more glacial pace. Brussels is reluctant to take unilateral action because, it has been told by European shipping interests, this could lead to the industry escaping from the EU to countries not under its jurisdiction.

So when David Cameron last week assured MPs that “if changes need to be made we will make them”, he forgot to inform them that the UK has no power any longer to regulate for ship safety, because we have surrendered it to the European Commission. On Friday, it assured us that it would be “taking fully into account any lessons to be learned from the Costa Concordia tragedy”.

Since the Commission has already managed to ignore all the lessons it might have learned from the research it has been funding since 2004, prospective cruise passengers should perhaps proceed with caution.

It would seem that the Costa Concordia disaster was, after all, the result of an long, persistent accumulation of small and not-so-small errors, mixed together by indifference, greed and pride.

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COSTA CONCORDIA: Blame game in, hope out

As hope fades for the successful rescue of the 20 people still missing a week after the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, the focus of operations on the Italian island of Giglio is shifting towards the prevention of future catastrophe and the allocation of blame for that which has already occurred. With some 500,000 gallons [roughly 2 million litres] of fuel oil still sloshing around in the hull of the ship, “We need to prevent an environmental disaster,” says Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, who is coordinating the emergency response. He added that while the agency wasn’t giving up rescue attempts, the risk of rupture of the ship’s fuel tanks was becoming an increasingly important worry.

Rescuers have been investigating whether the ship can be chained to the rocks on which it capsized last week, to halt its slow slippage towards deep waters, which would dramatically complicate further salvage efforts. The consequences of an oil spill would be disastrous. The mayor of Giglio has called the ship an “ecological time bomb.”

The potential for pollution puts at risk not only the area around the tiny Mediterranean island, but also the entirety of the nearby coast of Tuscany, one of the engines of Italian tourism. On Saturday, light oil was discovered floating near the Concordia, but rescue workers speculated it may have been diesel from rescue boats or lubricant from some of the on board machinery, not the heavy engine oil that could spell environmental devastation.

The plan is to extract the fuel oil and replace it with water, to avoid destabilizing the ship. Experts estimate that draining even those tanks closest to the outside of the hull could take as much as month — providing storms don’t cause delays — and that the inner tanks could prove harder to reach. Still, “there is a very good chance that the fuel oil can be removed,” says Paul Wright, associate director of the Marine Institute at Britain’s Plymouth University. Contamination from the kitchen oils, chemicals, sewage, and personal belongings of the crew and passengers are likely to be contained using booms.

What could prove more challenging is the salvage operation of the $450 million ship itself. “I would be very surprised if she is righted and floated off,” says Wright. “The most likely solution is that she will be cut up and dismantled in position.” It’s an operation that could take months.

Meanwhile, the legal process is gearing up as Italian authorities work to establish the criminal liability for what some experts predict will produce the most expensive insurance claims in maritime history. As of Saturday, the death toll for the accident stands at 12 and is likely to rise; the Costa Concordia‘s captain, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest and facing charges of manslaughter. At the heart of the investigation will be determining what happened in the 70 minutes between the moment the ship tore itself open on the rocks and Schettino’s first formal call for help. In the interval, the coast guard was misinformed by a member of the Concordia‘s crew about the condition of ship, even as it was taking on water. And passengers were told by an apparently confused or oblivious crew that the problem had been resolved and that they should return to their rooms.

Lawyers for civil plaintiffs will be eager to show that responsibility for the tragedy extends beyond the incompetence of the captain. “You have an incentive to find the deep pockets,” says Luca Melchionna, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law. Was the Costa Concordia‘s dangerous approach to the island part of a pattern that the cruise company had previously sanctioned or tolerated? To what extent did company policy contribute to the disarray in the early minutes when lives could have been saved? How well prepared were the crew for the event of an emergency?

For now, the cruise company has joined the criminal case against the captain as a civil party, formally putting itself among the injured and (not coincidentally) forestalling civil action in Italy while the criminal trial plays out, something that could take months of years. “It’s a strategic legal move that protects them, at least for a while,” says Melchionna.

But such maneuvers won’t protect the company in other jurisdictions. While lawyers for potential plaintiffs have complained that the waivers their clients were asked to sign have ruthlessly limited the cruise line’s liability, at least two law firms have announced they plan to file a class action lawsuit in the U.S. next week. Meanwhile, several passengers have already sought representation with the British law firm Irwin Mitchell. “With thousands of passengers and crew on board this huge vessel, their safety should have been the first and only priority,” Clive Garner, the head of the firm’s international law team, said in a statement. “Tragically, it seems that this was not the case and passengers and their families have paid a very heavy price.”

Source: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2105029,00.html#ixzz1k7VvAtS1

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MV BULGARIA: Captain fined for failing to help passengers

The captain of a vessel that passed by the sinking Bulgaria cruise ship without stopping to help rescue drowning passengers was fined, but avoided jail time, Interfax reported.

A district court in Tatarstan ruled that Yury Tuchin failed to provide help to victims of the July disaster on the Volga River, in which 122 people died when the 55-year-old Bulgaria foundered in a storm.

Tuchin, skipper of the Arbat dry cargo ship, pleaded guilty to not stopping to collect survivors, but said he had only done so because his ship risked crushing the lifeboats.

The prosecution asked to jail the 60-year-old sailor for 14 months and ban him from working on ships for three years afterward, but the court only fined Tuchin 130,000 rubles ($4,200), the report said. Neither party said Monday whether it planned to appeal.

A similar case against the captain of the Dunaisky-66 towboat is under review in a Kazan court. Several officials and the head of the company that leased the decrepit Bulgaria also face charges over the disaster.

Source: The Moscow Times

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INCIDENTS: MAIB releases report on Queen Mary 2 explosion

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released the result of its investigations into a failure of a capacitor, part of the diesel-electric propulsion system of the cruise ship ‘Queen Mary 2’.

The MAIB feels that there are lessons that the industry should learn from this incident, which resulted in an explosion onboard,so has asked for our help in promulgating the information.

At 0425 on 23 September 2010, as the passenger liner Queen Mary 2 (QM2) was approaching Barcelona, a loud explosion was heard from the direction of the aft main switchboard (MSB) room. Within a few seconds, all four of the podded propulsion motors shut down. A few seconds later, the vessel suffered an electrical blackout. Thick black smoke was seen to be coming from the aft MSB room. Fortunately, the vessel was clear of navigational hazards and no one was injured.

By 0439, the crew had confirmed that the explosion had taken place in the aft harmonic filter (HF) which was situated in a compartment next to the aft MSB room. After establishing with thermal imaging cameras that there were no hot spots, they ventilated the area and isolated the aft HF and MSB from the rest of the 11000 volt electrical network. The crew were able to restore some electrical power supplies and, by 0523,QM2 was underway using two propulsion motors powered from the forward MSB. Subsequent inspection of the aft HF revealed that one of its capacitors had failed catastrophically due to internal over-pressure and another had developed a severe bulge.

The vessel had a history of HF capacitor failures, at an average rate of one per year. Although the exact cause of the capacitor failures could not be determined, it was concluded that capacitor degradation was probably caused by a combination of transient high voltage spikes due to frequent switching operations and occasional network over-voltage fluctuations. The capacitor deterioration had not been detected, and because there were no internal fuses or pressure relief devices, it had continued until the capacitor casing failed catastrophically.

Although the aft HF circuit breaker disconnected the HF from the rest of the electrical network to isolate the electrical fault, the disruption was likely to have caused electrical instability in the electrical network which led to the loss of propulsion and blackout. The vessel’s alarm logs were found to contain early warnings about the impending failure approximately 36 minutes before the accident. However, as the vessel’s alarm systems regularly logged more than one alarm every minute, this information was not seen and could not be acted upon.

The only protection against catastrophic failure of the capacitors was a current imbalance detection system. It consisted of a current transformer which was connected to the capacitor circuit. Under normal conditions, little or no current should have flowed through the transformer. When a capacitor degraded, the current flow across the circuit became unbalanced and induced a current in the transformer’s secondary winding. The system was set to give an alarm when the imbalance reached 400mA and to trip at 800mA.After the accident, the transformer’s windings were found to have failed. There had not been any alarms on this part of the system for several years and it was likely that the imbalance detection system had not worked for some time.

This caused the alarm display to read 0mA giving a false indication that the capacitors were in good condition. Although detection of an unbalanced current was the only protection system for the harmonic filters, it had no backup and did not fail safe. Routine tests of the system were by the secondary current injection method, and by-passed the transformer.

Source: http://www.motorship.com/news101/maib-reports-on-qm2-explosion

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