Gianni Onorato, general manager of Carnival (CCL) Corp.’s Costa Crociere line, said the ship had embarked about 7 p.m. from Civitavecchia near Rome on a trip that was scheduled to include stops at ports in France and Spain. The vessel hit the rocks and Captain Francesco Schettino, after assessing the damage, decided to secure the ship and gave the evacuation order, Onorato told news channel SkyTG24 in an interview. A Costa Crociere spokesman confirmed the comments.
“This is a terrible tragedy and we are deeply saddened,” Carnival said yesterday in a statement. Carnival, based in Miami, is the world’s largest cruise line owner, with brands such as Cunard, Princess Cruises and Costa.
Schettino is being detained for allegedly abandoning the ship, Francesco Verusio, the prosecutor in the city of Grosseto, said in a SkyTG24 interview. The Costa Crociere spokesman, who declined to be identified because of company policy, confirmed the arrest. It appears the ship was on a wrong route, the prosecutor said, adding that he’s investigating whether other people also are responsible for the incident.
The accident was due to a “reckless maneuver,” news agency Ansa quoted Verusio as saying. The captain is also accused of manslaughter and causing a shipwreck, Verusio told Ansa. Italian newspapers including Corriere della Sera said the captain may have steered the boat closer to the coast to allow passengers a better view of the island’s lights.
I come from a long line of people who went to sea for a wide variety of reasons, including naval architecture, shipbuilding, yachting, offshore oil and of course military service. And, yes, we had our near disasters too, as I describe in When You Need a Native Guide and Safe in the Harbour (Barely.) But in reading this it seems to me that everything that could go wrong here did–poor navigation, bad judgement, and last but not least the captain abandoning the ship before everyone else was off, which is unconscionable. (When we had a bomb threat in our building at UTC, I made sure the classroom was evacuated before I left, a reflex from my father’s insistence that the captain always leaves the ship last.)
In an age when GPS rules navigation and the technology seems to make events like this a thing of the past, this is a reminder that good old judgement and adherence to the conventions of the sea is still essential to getting the ship, her passengers and her cargo safe in the harbour at the end of the voyage.