Report: Black Box Not Functioning, Watertight Doors Open When Costa Concordia Hit the Rocks

Extremely disturbing news coming out of Italy regarding the Costa Concordia, which ran aground and sank off the island of Giglio on January 13, 2012 with the deaths of at least 30 passengers. If the reports prove to be true, the ship was sailing with open watertight doors, doors which were required to be closed prior to sailing, when she ran aground. There are also reports that the ship’s so called “black box” had not been functioning for days prior to the collision,  that this was not the first time that the black box had failed and that the company was aware that the device required repair.

 Corriere della Sera, an Italian newspaper, is reporting that the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) on the Costa Concordia, the so called “black box,” from which investigators had expected to learn what happened on night of January 13, 2012, when the ship struck the rocks of the Island of Giglio, was broken.  They report that it had been broken since January 9th and that the company planned on making repairs to the device when the ship called on the port of Savona on Savona on January 14th.  The newspaper quotes emails suggesting that the failures in the VDR were a chronic problem and that the Costa management knew that the ship was sailing without a working VDR, which is required by chapter V of the Safety of Navigation of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS) under regulations adopted in 2000, which entered into force on 1 July 2002.  The only data recorder reportedly functioning and recovered was the ship’s main computer which shut down at 23:36 (11:36 PM) when it lost power.

Just as disturbing are reports that the ship may have sailed with certain of the watertight doors open. Corriere reports that at the shortly after the Costa Concordia hit the rocks, an officer reported, “There is water coming in through the fire doors, continues to allow water from fire doors.”  Forty minutes after the collision, chief mate Ciro Ambrosio reportedly ordered the watertight doors to be closed but the mechanism did not respond.

The Costa Concordia and the black box Experts: failure four days before

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3 Responses to Report: Black Box Not Functioning, Watertight Doors Open When Costa Concordia Hit the Rocks

  1. JMW says:

    Chronic problems and not working at the time……
    The questions that need to be asked are:
    Are these problems common with this manufacturer’s VDR or just related to this vessel?
    IF this was a generic problem the question would be waht steps the manufacturer had taken and why the shipping company didn’t change manufacturer’s.
    BUT IF this was a particular problem with the Concordia it raises all sorts of other questions.
    Suppliers of any kind of equipment to any kind of industry know that if that equipment is unwelcome, for whatever reason, it can suffer a series of “accidents”. Being hosed down when the electronics are exposed, something heavy falls on it. Repeatedly. Power surges, voltage spikes. Sooner or later person or persons unknown take it upon themselves to see it taken away.
    The history of this incident and the seemingly cavalier attitude of the captain make these serious questions to ask. The reputation of Black boxes, and their purpose necessitates it, is that they are extremely rugged and able to survive all sorts of disasters. So you have to worry that a vessel has a series of chronic problems with their own VDR (the only one on board?) and wonder why that is so.

  2. Rick Spilman says:

    All excellent questions. I too wonder why the ship was allowed to sail if the VDR was not functioning. Was the inspection lax or were the standards too low?

  3. Simon Miller says:

    In this day and age why is black box technology so antiquated? An airliner plunges into the sea and they need to spend millions sending an ROV down to search for the black boxes. Why isn’t this information also beamed to a satellite somewhere and duplicated on-board in a tiny device that ejects itself on impact, floats and signals it’s position? Would not be difficult to do when you can fit a terabyte of data onto an SD card. Why wouldn’t a billion dollar cruise liner have a dozen back up data recorders? It can’t be all that difficult can it?