Tag Archives: Schettino

COSTA CONCORDIA: An organizational accident, after all?

It is increasingly clear to me that what took place off Giglio last January was an organizational rather than an individual accident. Have a look at the text below, from http://www.canadianbusiness.com/article/98536–court-experts-fault-captain-crew-owner-for-deadly-ship-grounding-off-tuscany, and have your say:

ROME – Court-appointed experts have squarely blamed the captain of a cruise ship that ran aground off Italy for the wreckage and deaths of 32 people, but they also faulted the crew and ship owner for a series of blunders, delays and safety breaches that contributed to the disaster.

The Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio on Jan. 13 after Capt. Francesco Schettino took it off course and brought it close to the island as part of a stunt. He is accused of manslaughter, causing the shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all passengers were evacuated.

Eight other people, among them crew members and Costa’s crisis co-ordinator, are also under investigation. The court in Grosseto ordered the expert investigation to help it determine who, if anyone, should be put on trial. A hearing is scheduled for next month.

In a 270-page analysis, the four experts described in second-by-second detail the unfolding disaster as Schettino slowly came to realize the gravity of the situation. Using data and voice recorders to reconstruct the drama on the bridge, the report showed how Schettino failed to grasp for a good 45 minutes repeated reports from his crew that his ship was flooding and its motors dead.

The analysis came out Wednesday and was placed online Thursday by the Rome daily La Repubblica.

The experts contrasted what went wrong on board with maritime rules and procedures and determined that Schettino should have given the “abandon ship” order at 10 p.m. that night, 15 minutes after the 9:45 p.m. grounding against the rocks off Giglio.

Instead, the evacuation order only went out at 10:43 p.m. — and Schettino himself didn’t give it but another officer, in violation of maritime rules. By that time, passengers on their own had already reported to their muster stations with life jackets on, despite a decision from a crew member at one point that they should go back to the dining room.

“Madonna, what a mess I’ve made,” Schettino muttered soon after the collision, according to the transcript.

Beyond Schettino’s faults, the experts said a series of problems hobbled the execution of his initial manoeuvre and efforts to fix it, and contributed to the botched evacuation. Bridge crew members bungled directions and didn’t his understand orders because of language barriers. Other crew members weren’t trained or certified in security and emergency drills, the report found.

In all, the experts said, Schettino and his bridge crew showed “scarce professional seriousness” before and during the disaster, with Schettino joking just before the crash, after his helmsman again misunderstood an order, that he needed to do it right “otherwise we go on the rocks.”

And the experts said ship owner Costa Crociere bore blame, too, by delaying alerting coastal authorities about the emergency — a charge Costa denied Thursday.

In a statement, Costa said by law it was Schettino who was supposed to have alerted authorities about the accident, and that the captain assured the Costa crew on land that he had done so. And regardless, Costa said, Schettino’s reports to Costa’s headquarters were so delayed, “partial and confused” that the company couldn’t discern how serious the emergency was.

Yet the expert report said Schettino had “clearly explained the situation” to Costa’s fleet crisis co-ordinator in his initial call. Schettino was far less forthcoming when the Livorno port authorities called him after hearing word the ship was in trouble: in that conversation, Schettino only told the port that there was a blackout on board.

And Costa firmly rejected the experts’ claims that the crew was unprepared for emergencies, saying the “alleged defects in the certifications of some of the crew” didn’t affect the evacuation.

From the start, passengers described a confused and delayed evacuation, with many of the lifeboats unable to be lowered because the boat was listing too far to one side. Some of the 4,200 people aboard jumped into the Mediterranean and swam to Giglio, while others had to be plucked from the vessel by rescue helicopters hours after the collision.

Some passengers said they were shocked to see Schettino already ashore when they were being evacuated. Schettino claims he helped direct the evacuation from the island after leaving the ship. The report demonstrates how he refused several demands by port authorities to return to the ship to oversee the evacuation.

Schettino has insisted that by guiding the stricken ship to shallower waters near Giglio’s port instead of immediately ordering an evacuation he potentially saved lives. He has claimed that another official, and not he, was at the helm when the ship struck.

But the timeline in the expert report makes clear that he had assumed control with a verbal order at 9:39 p.m., after being called back up to the bridge to oversee the stunt, which he had planned as a favour to friends from Giglio.

Work has begun to remove the tons of rocky reef embedded into the Concordia’s hull, a first step in plans to eventually tow the wreck away from the island.

The whole removal process is expected to take as long as a year.

To learn more about organizational accidents, an interesting starting point might be Organizational Accidents: A Systemic Model of Production versus Protection, a paper written by Yang Miang Goh, Peter E. D. Love, Helen Brown and Jeffery Spickett of Curtin University of Technology, Australia. I quote the abstract below:

Production pressure is often cited as an underlying contributory factor of organizational accidents. The relationship, however, between production and safety protection is complex and has not been adequately addressed by current theories regarding organizational accident. In addressing this gap, this paper uses the methodology of system dynamics to develop a causal model to address the dynamic interaction between management of production and protection, which can accumulate in an organizational accident. A case study of a fatal rock fall accident in Tasmania, Australia was conducted based on the developed model and is used to uncover the intricate dynamics linking production pressure, risk tolerability, perception of safety margin, and protection efforts. In particular, the study demonstrates how a strong production focus can trigger a vicious cycle of deteriorating risk perception and how increased protection effort can, ironically, lead to deterioration of protection.

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COSTA CONCORDIA: Fuel removal in focus

From the Huffington Post, 2012.01.24:

ROME — Nudged gently by the tides off Tuscany, the capsized Costa Concordia has been deemed stable enough on its rocky perch for salvagers to begin pumping fuel oil from its giant tanks as early as Tuesday.

The cruise liner, its hull gashed by a reef and pocked by holes blasted by divers searching for the missing, yielded two more bodies Monday, 10 days after the accident. The corpses of two women were found in the luxury liner’s Internet cafe, now 55 feet (17 meters) underwater.

Tables, desks, elegant upholstered armchairs and cabinets bobbed in the sea as divers guided the furniture out of the holes to clear space for their exploration inside.

So far, the bodies of 15 people have been found, most of them in the submerged portion of the vessel, while 17 others remain unaccounted for. Authorities said earlier reports that an unregistered Hungarian woman had called friends from the ship before it flipped over turned out to be groundless.

The Concordia rammed a reef and capsized Jan. 13 off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio as it was carrying 4,200 passengers and crew on a Mediterranean cruise.

Salvage experts received the green light Monday to start pumping fuel soon from the double-lined tanks of the Concordia. The weekslong fuel-removal operation aims to avert a possible environmental catastrophe in the waters off Giglio, part of a protected seven-island marine park.

Officials said the pumping would be carried out as divers continue the search for the missing since instrument readings have determined the Concordia was not at risk of sliding into deeper waters and being swallowed by the sea.

“The ship is stable,” said Franco Gabrielli, head of the national civil protection agency. “There is no problem or danger that it is about to drop onto much lower seabed.”

Meanwhile, an oily film was spotted about 300 yards (meters) from the capsized vessel by officials flying in a helicopter and by residents of Giglio, Gabrielli’s office said. Samples were being analyzed, but preliminary observations indicated the slick is a light oil and not from heavy fuel inside the Concordia’s tanks.

Absorbent panels put around the area seem to have at least partially absorbed the oil, authorities said.

The ship’s Italian captain, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest near Naples, facing possible charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his vessel while some people were still aboard. He has insisted that he was coordinating rescue operations from a lifeboat and then from shore.

The ship’s operator, Costa Crociere SpA, has distanced itself from the captain, contending he made an unauthorized detour from the ship’s authorized route. Schettino, however, has reportedly told investigators that Costa officials requested that he sail close to Giglio in a publicity move.

In a statement issued late Monday, Costa said it would refund passengers the full cost of the cruise and reimburse all travel and any medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident.

Schettino’s lawyer, Bruno Leporatti, told reporters Monday that tests on urine and hair samples showed his client was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs before the crash. Prosecutors are not allowed to discuss the investigation while it is under way and it was impossible to confirm the report.

Despite earlier fears, officials said the crippled cruise ship, with a 230-foot (70-meter) gash in its hull, is not expected to roll off its rocky seabed perch and be swallowed by the sea.

An Italian geologist on Giglio monitoring the ship’s movements said the Concordia was not so much moving as “responding to the tides.”

“It is moving at the rate of about one or two millimeters an hour,” Nicola Casagli told Sky TV TG24.

The sea has been calm for several days but was expected to become choppy in the next few days.

Islanders have been pressing for removal of the heavy, tar-like fuel from the ship’s 17 tanks to avert a possible catastrophic leak.

“They should start the oil drainage operations on the ship. At this point those who died will not come back to life. Even if they pull them out later, unfortunately it won’t make a difference,” Giglio resident Andrea Ginanneschi told The Associated Press.

Five miles (eight kilometers) of oil barriers have been laid to protect marine life and the pristine waters, which are prime fishing grounds and a protected area for dolphins and whales.

Recovery experts from the Dutch salvage company Smit have said they will create holes in the top and the bottom of each tank, heating the fuel so it flows more easily and pumping from the top while forcing air in from the bottom. For the underwater tanks, sea water will be used to displace the fuel, which becomes thick and gooey when cooled.

Besides some 2,200 metric tons of heavy fuel oil, there are 185 metric tons of diesel and lubricants on board, as well as chemicals including cleaning products and chlorine. Some diesel and lubricants have leaked into the water near the ship, probably from machinery on board, officials have said.

“Smit has been ready for a week to begin pumping fuel from the tanks, awaiting only the go-ahead,” said a company statement. “For this purpose, Smit has mobilized an oil tanker with emergency response equipment, including sweeping arms, booms and a skimmer.”

Seven bodies still await identification. Gabrielli said officials have DNA from the relatives of all of the missing passengers and are working to confirm their names.

On Monday, the body of a woman found in the ship a few days earlier was identified as that of a 30-year-old Italian woman, a new bride who was on the Mediterranean cruise with several family members.

Barry reported from Milan. Andrea Foa reported from Giglio.

 

 

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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.

UNREGISTERED PASSENGERS?

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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