Friday, 20 January 2012

Concordia captain navigated ship off course, says Costa CEO

Concordia captain navigated ship off course, says Costa CEO

By Donna Tunney
Francesco Schettino, captain of the partially sunken Costa Concordia, diverted from the cruise line’s normal route from Civitavecchia to Savona, Italy, Costa Cruises CEO Pier Luigi Foschi said in a media briefing Monday.

Foschi explained that Costa ships sail the Concordia’s northern route out of Civitavecchia 100 times a year, using detailed charts.

Schettino, who has been detained by Italian police, diverted from the route so that passengers could view the Tuscan island of Giglio up close, Foschi said.

The cruise ship struck rocks near Giglio on Friday, and the ship tilted into the sea.

Since the Italian authorities have seized the ship and all navigational records, Foschi said it is unclear which charts Schettino was using.

“We are working with investigators who will understand what happened. We have to inform all of you that the prosecutor has the ‘black box,’ which has all the information to enable us to understand what happened,” Foschi said.

Emergency search-and-rescue teams have been combing through the wrecked ship since the weekend and found three survivors and the bodies of two passengers who died inside the vessel.

The death toll from the accident is six, according to reports. Twenty-nine people are still unaccounted for, the Italian Coast Guard said on Monday evening. Authorities earlier said that 16 people were missing.

Four crew members and 25 passengers are still missing. According to Fox News, a U.S. couple from Minnesota is among the missing.

There were more than 4,200 passengers and crew aboard the Concordia.

Costa hired a salvage company on Sunday to determine how to remove the ship from its location in about 98 feet of water.

Foschi said the company is “very, very concerned” about environmental impact, since the Concordia was loaded with 2,300 tons of fuel. The ship had departed Civitavecchia on a seven-day Western Mediterranean cruise a few hours before the collision.

Initial reports that the ship had grounded may have been mistaken, given the confirmed depth of the water.

Foschi said that arrangements would be made for passengers booked on future Concordia sailings. “This has not been our priority right now,” he said.

Foschi added that it’s too soon to determine whether there will be an inordinate number of cancellations in the wake of the disaster.

“We will be looking into that,” he said.

He said that Costa’s loyal customers and its “quality track record over 60 years” would help ensure its future operations.

Costa’s reputation eventually will emerge as strong as it was before the Concordia disaster, said Foschi.
This report was updated Monday evening to add that 29 people on the Costa Concordia were unaccounted for.