By James Brewer:
Six dead, 29 missing as cruise ship runs aground in Italy
17 January 2012
Six passengers are confirmed dead, 60 injured and 29 still missing after a massive cruise ship ran aground with 4,229 people on board off the coast of Italy Friday evening. After the sixth body was found early Monday, rescue operations were suspended and subsequently resumed, due to heavy seas, as the ship shifted deeper into the water.
The liner, Costa Concordia, the 29th largest in the world, is owned and operated by Costa Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Cruise Lines. Designed to carry 3,700 passengers and 1,100 crew, the ship was close to full capacity when the disaster occurred.
The Italian government, meanwhile, is reportedly preparing to declare a state of emergency over the environmental disaster provoked by the wreck of the Costa Concordia, which is leaking up to half a million gallons of heavy oil into waters that have served as a dolphin sanctuary.
Passengers described the evacuation scene as chaotic and panicked. The Italian media has referred to the disaster as the Italian Titanic.
After departing from the port of Civitavechia some four hours earlier in the afternoon, a muster drill (an exercise usually carried out just after a ship’s departure to familiarize passengers with evacuation procedures, life vests and designated lifeboat locations) had not been conducted, so not only passengers, but also apparently crew members, did not know what to do.
A passenger from Sicily, Alessandra Grasso, told the press, “No crew member was trained for an evacuation.”
Giancarlo Sammatrice, from Vittoria, Sicily, said, “there were not enough lifeboats. The pilots were not sailors but waiters who had no idea how to maneuver and kept on having us turning in circles.”
According to ABC’s report, the black box (cockpit recording device) indicated that the collision took place at 9:45 pm, but passengers weren’t notified to evacuate until 10:50.
A South Korean couple celebrating their honeymoon, were trapped in their cabin for 30 hours before being rescued.
The cruise industry has become a huge business, carrying more than 16 million passengers every year. Cruise ships have become larger and larger, sometimes being described as floating cities. Though the Costa Concordia is a massive vessel, it ranks only as 29th largest. It is 952 feet long, with 17 decks and 1,500 cabins. With such large ships and so many above-the-waterline cabins with sea views and verandas, cruise lines have been able to attract less-than-wealthy passengers.
According to a recent BBC report, “these larger ships have helped cruise liners cut prices, so during the past two decades the industry has experienced annual growth in passenger numbers of some 7.4 percent, as cruises have become a holiday of choice for ordinary people as opposed to being a pursuit only the wealthy could afford.”
It is a lucrative business.
The chairman and CEO of Costa Cruises, Pier Luigi Foschi, was compensated a total of $4,500,000 in 2009, according to Forbes Magazine. Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa’s mother company, reported an average of 13.8 percent growth over the last four quarters with a projected yearly revenue of $15.86 billion. The CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, Micky Arison, made $7,200,000 in 2009, with a personal net worth of $6.1 billion, placing him at 75th on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans.
The cruise ship company undoubtedly has its own reasons for changing their story in relation to the ship’s captain. Carnival Cruise Line’s stock value fell 17 percent on Monday as a result of the catastrophe.
Even though immediate losses are likely to be covered by insurance, analysts are predicting that Carnival Cruises could suffer a 30 percent decline in profits. The timing of the disaster could not have been worse for the corporation, coming in the midst of its heaviest booking season.
It is to the advantage of the business to deflect any scrutiny from its own practices, such as hiring and training, to a single “irresponsible” individual. The corporation, above all, wants to avoid any implication that the disaster is the outcome of systemic safety problems in its operations and that of the industry as a whole.
In particular, the Concordia disaster calls into question the safety of the larger, more profitable cruise ships, which are more difficult to navigate and cannot pass through channels used by smaller vessels. The large passenger loads also serve to magnify the problem of inadequate training of crew members in safety and emergency response.
The media’s universal vilification of Captain Schettino serves to divert public attention from such concerns. While it appears that errors on the part of the captain contributed to the ship’s grounding, such catastrophes are rarely simply the result of the actions taken by a single individual.
Italy: Whales, sharks threatened by stricken cruise liner, says green group: here.
The Costa Concordia disaster and the profit drive of the cruise business: here.
Costa Concordia Capsizes near Med’s Biggest Marine Park: here.
Death toll likely to rise in Italian cruise ship tragedy: here.
Titanic film review: here.