The Costa Concordia “Saluting” Giglio Last August
In a recent press conference, Costa Crociere chairman and CEO Pier Luigi Foschi blamed the grounding of the Costa Concordia on an ”inexplicable” error by the captain. Mr Foschi said: “This route was put in correctly. The fact that it left from this course is due solely to a manoeuvre by the commander that was unapproved, unauthorised and unknown to Costa.” He went on to say that the captain had sailed close to land to “show the ship to the port” and to “make a salute“.
It is unusual for a corporation to assign blame to one of its own personnel so quickly after a casualty and before the formal investigation has even begun. The company appears to wish to characterize Captain Francesco Schettino’s actions as those of one man acting ”inexplicably.” But were his actions “inexplicable” or were they part on a what amounted to an ongoing tradition of Costa ships sailing perilously close to the island of Giglio to deliver a “salute”?
This was not the first time when that the Costa Concordia skirted close to the island. As reported by Der Spiegel, cruise ships have made perilously close passes to shore many times, describing it as “a nice tradition, normalissima.” Last August the island’s mayor sent an email to the previous captain of the Costa Concordia, (not Captain Schettino) thanking the him for a close pass to the island and praised him for providing an “unequalled spectacle,” that had become an “indispensable tradition.” See the video above.
The mayor acknowledges prior close passes by cruise ships. “Since I’ve been mayor perhaps three or four ships have come so near to the harbour,” he says, meaning a distance of around 300 to 500 meters away. Other residents however say that the frequency has been much higher.
“Four times in the last two and a half years? No, that’s not right,” counter Giglio residents. It happens often, says one barista at a harbour café, calling it “nothing special.” Alessandro, the owner of a grocery store along the promenade, says it is “not a new trend.” Instead, it’s an old seaman’s custom. “When there weren’t any mobile phones yet the seafarers could greet their families this way if they lived along the coast or in a harbor,” Alessandro said.
Rosalba, an islander in her 70s, agrees. “For years I’ve thought it was dangerous to sail so close to the coast,” she said.
Der Spiegel comments, “If Giglio’s residents are to be believed, the tragedy was waiting to happen.” Read more at Cutting Close to Shore – ‘A Nice Tradition, Normalissima’
If indeed the grounding of the Costa Concordia was the ultimate result of a “nice tradition” rather than simply the inexplicable actions of a single captain, what responsibility does Costa have for allowing it to continue until it ended in tragedy? And if the company was unaware of the actions of its captains, what does that say about their concern for the safety of their fleet and their passengers?