The Italian Cruise Ship Costa Concordia Runs
On Friday, January 13, 2012, at approximately 9:45 p.m., the Italian cruise ship, Costa Concordia, while carrying 3,200 passengers and approximately 1,000 crew members, ran aground or struck a reef. A gash in the side of the ship caused it to capsize on its side in water fifteen to twenty meters deep near the island of Giglio off the coast of Tuscany. The Costa Concordia had departed for a Mediterranean cruise to include ports in Civitavecchia, Palermo, Cagliari, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, Marseille and Savona. Dozens were injured, many were unaccounted for and six are known to be dead. There were conflicting reports about whether the ship was off course in reef-filled waters just miles from the shore, or whether an electrical failure had caused the crew to lose control. Passengers spoke of faulty evacuation procedures and unprepared staff who told them nothing was wrong until the ship began tipping over.
The Captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, faces possible charges of manslaughter, failure to offer assistance and abandonment of ship. Captain Schettino maintained that the ship hit a reef that was not on navigational charts and not detected by radar equipment. The owner of the Costa Concordia is Costa Crociere S.p.A. doing business as Costa Cruises. It is a British-American owned Italian cruise line, based in Genoa, Italy. It was acquired by the American cruise line company, Carnival Corporation, as a subsidiary of Carnival Cruises in 2000.
The President of the Costa Cruises, Gianni Onorato, said the ship had been sailing its regularly scheduled itinerary from Civitavecchia to Savona, Italy, when it struck a submerged rock. He immediately defended the company claiming that the actions of the captain was a maneuver that protected passengers and crew members. He also said that normal lifeboat evacuation had become “almost impossible” because the ship had listed so quickly.
We can expect that corporate ownership will attempt to escape all legal responsibility from this disaster. The ship owner will certainly take advantage of any maritime or international laws available to avoid legal liability and seek exoneration from fault. Any claims made by passengers and families for personal injury and wrongful death against the ship owner will raise possible causes of the accident including human error, technical problems, improper crew training and failure of the ownership to be aware of existing problems and have appropriate policies and procedures in place.