Your ship could capsize, your captain could abandon ship—but wait, there are even more good reasons to never go to sea.
The Costa Concordia cruise ship went down one year ago. Now ‘weather is the enemy’ as a team races to raise it. Barbie Latza Nadeau reports.
The putrid stench of rotting food is a daily distraction for the 420 men and women working on the salvage operation of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that crashed off the island of Giglio on the Tuscan coast on Jan. 13, 2012. The ship had just embarked from Civitavecchia carrying enough fish, meat, and poultry to feed 4,200 passengers and crew for 10 days before it crashed. Most of the food is still in the storage lockers and freezers, protected from the fish and marine life, and now so rotten that the smell has permeated the seals and cases. Seagulls swoop over the wreckage, drawn by the odor.
The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia is surrounded by cranes during a rescue operation in front of Giglio harbor, Nov. 6, 2012. (Stefano Rellandini/Reuters, via Landov )
The ship looks almost nothing like it did a year ago. Its bright yellow funnel is gone, and the boulder that was lodged in the hull has been removed. The wreck is rusting and dirty, and is now dwarfed by giant barges holding cranes and equipment on one side, and on the other by a massive floating dormitory where most of the 420 men and women from 19 countries who are working on the operation live. At night, the ship is lit up like a circus and a constant hum of generators and drills fills the air.
This is the largest-ever attempted maritime salvage operation, and while all involved say they are optimistic it will work, the risks involved are apparent. “Weather is our enemy,” says Nick Sloane, the South African project chief for American-based Titan Salvage. “We are working ’round the clock to get the job done as fast as we can.”
Sometime between June and September.
This Sunday marks the first anniversary of the Costa Concordia’s deadly crash off the Tuscan island of Giglio. Ahead of the anniversary, Italy’s Social Defense Department announced Saturday that plans to remove the ship are underway, and slated for sometime between June and September of this year. Since the crash, which led to the death of the 32, the massive cruise ship has remained in its resting place as a ghastly tourist attraction, brining hundreds of sightseers to Giglio. The June-Sept. time frame was chosen because it’s likely to have the best weather conditions for the salvage operation. After over a year, it will no doubt be good for survivors, families, and islanders alike to put the ship to rest.
On the first anniversary of the ship’s sinking, two newlyweds recount their trip through bureaucratic hell after the accident stranded them in Italy.
When 35-year-old Benji Smith and his new bride, Emily Lau, 28, were sitting on the outer hull of the sinking Costa Concordia cruise ship last Jan. 13—marooned in the waters off the Tuscan coast of Italy—they thought they were going to die. “It was at this point, with nowhere further to go, that we waited for the ship to finally finish sinking,” Smith writes in his new book Abandoned Ship, published to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the disaster. “I told Emily that I loved her. She kissed me. I sang her a song. We cried a little. With one hand each, we held onto the rope. And with the other hand, we held each other.”
The cruise ship Costa Concordia lies stricken off the shore of the Italian island of Giglio on Jan. 16, 2012. More than 4,000 people were on board when the ship hit rocks. (Laura Lezza/Getty)
By then the ship had turned on its side, and all the rescue boats were gone. It was quiet and dark. The light of the moon and a spotlight from a search-and-rescue helicopter glistened off the cold water. Smith, a computer scientist from Boston, and Lau, a classical musician, were among several hundred passengers—along with Lau’s Chinese relatives, who had joined them on the honeymoon trip—literally abandoned on the above-water side of the sinking ship. (They are the tiny black dots in a now famous haunting infrared video taken the night of the crash by the Italian Coast Guard.) “We could feel [the ship] moving beneath us, being sucked into the sea at an accelerating pace,” Smith writes. “As though pulled toward its doom by some enormous undersea monster with ten thousand tentacles and a voracious appetite.”
However bad that moment was, Smith says it was easier to face than what came later. “The aftermath was much worse than the abandonment by the captain,” Smith told The Daily Beast. “The captain is a fool who acted carelessly and then hid himself in shame, but we don’t hate him. By contrast, in the aftermath of the disaster, the institutional players—executives at Costa and Carnival, the U.S. ambassador and consular staff, media figures, and the United States Congress—treated us either with calculated indifference or deliberate exploitation. Unlike the captain, they knew exactly what they were doing, and they did it anyhow.”
Few dispute that Francesco Schettino was responsible for wrecking the Costa Concordia. The tougher question for a judge bringing charges is who is most responsible for the botched evacuation and 32 deaths, Barbie Latza Nadeau reports.
Francesco Schettino, the erstwhile captain of the Costa Concordia—the ill-fated cruise ship that still lies in a heap off the Tuscan island of Giglio—faced his accusers and a handful of passengers in a closed-door preliminary hearing in Grosseto, Italy, on Monday. Schettino was the captain of the Costa Concordia when it crashed into an outcropping off Giglio last Jan. 13. Thirty-two people died.
Schettino and eight others are facing possible charges of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and not reporting the accident to authorities. Among those under criminal investigation are three members of the Costa Crociere cruise line’s crisis center team with whom Schettino exchanged a number of telephone calls immediately after the crash. The audio recorder on the ship’s black box captured Schettino’s end of the conversation, but investigators are very interested in knowing what the crisis team told him in return. If they asked him to lie to the port authority about the gravity of the situation, or if they in any way directed him to wait to call abandon ship, they could supersede Schettino in being held ultimately responsible for the loss of life. Schettino also faces charges for abandoning ship when he apparently fell into a lifeboat the night of the crash while hundreds of passengers were still trying to get off the sinking vessel.
Francesco Schettino, the former captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, right, leaves the Teatro Moderno theater where the first hearing of the trial for the Jan. 13 shipwreck, which left 32 people dead, is taking place, in Grosseto, Italy, Oct. 15, 2012. (Gregorio Borgia / Getty Images)
The former captain, who was officially fired last summer, was not allowed to address the court, but his lawyers filed several motions on his behalf, including calling to court Jacob Rusli Bin, the Indonesian helmsman who was steering the ship on Schettino’s orders the night of the mishap. Audio from the black box, which was distributed on Monday by Italian consumer advocate group Codacons, reveals the moments of chaos on the bridge before the accident. Schettino can be heard bragging, “I love to do the fly-by near Giglio,” as he turned off the ship’s automatic steering to manually guide the cruiser. Moments later, he can be heard yelling “Hard to Port” at the helmsman when it became clear the ship was heading for disaster. The helmsman, who did not speak English or Italian fluently, responded, “Hard to Starboard?” in English. Schettino repeated the request to turn the ship to port, but the delay proved fatal. The judge in the preliminary hearing, Valeria Montesarchio, denied the request to subpoena the helmsman.
As crews struggle with the ship’s remains and seek two still-missing passengers, the Italian cruise liner’s feckless captain and his officers are facing the legal consequences.
The massive carcass of the Costa Concordia cruise ship is still rusting and rotting off the Tuscan island of Giglio nine months after it struck an outcropping and ran aground in what is one of the largest passenger shipwrecks of all time. Thirty-two of the 4,200 people onboard were killed in the disaster, including two Americans from Minnesota. Two bodies—those of an Indian waiter and a Sicilian woman—have yet to be recovered, still reportedly pinned between the ship and the rocks it rests on.
The Costa Concordia cruise ship near the harbour of Giglio Porto. (Joern Haufe / AP Photo)
The crippled ship, which once looked colossal against the tiny island, is now dwarfed by giant platforms and a rig normally used to drill oil. Immense cranes carry workers from the platforms to the ship and dip into the vessel’s belly, securing it from within and occasionally pulling out loose debris. In a surreal scene, dozens of tan mesh sun chairs still hang perilously over the railings on the top deck, which is now perpendicular to the sea. Occasionally one falls off and splashes into the water below. Inside the ship, the staterooms are filled with passengers’ belongings. Eventually, each locked safe will be removed and returned to the passenger who had rented the room—or to their survivors. Only the erstwhile captain Francesco Schettino’s possessions have been removed from his suite, including the luggage of a young Moldavian ballet dancer who was on the bridge when the crash occurred.
Schettino—along with eight others, including the Concordia’s first and second officers as well as crisis-management officials from the Costa Crociere company, which owned the ship—are facing indictment for multiple manslaughter and other crimes when a mainland court in Grosseto reconvenes Oct. 15. Judges in the preliminary hearing will hear evidence from experts who have analyzed the ship’s black box. The captain, who was released from house arrest last summer and photographed sailing his private boat off the Amalfi coast throughout the summer, has confirmed that he will be in court “to show my face to my accusers.”
What you should know before boarding a cruise ship.
On the morning after the Costa Concordia hit a reef off an Italian island and capsized, cruise-ship waiters still in their soaked uniforms were separated from the regular passengers and loaded onto a bus, to be shipped off to separate hotels on the mainland. Before boarding, one employee from the Philippines named Miguel lamented to Newsweek that he’d lost everything on the ship. “We were paid in cash, and my whole savings from the last six months is in my locker. I was going to send that money to my wife and daughters.” The waiter was luckier than several of his crewmates, five of whom perished, including Erika Fani Soriamolina, a young Peruvian waitress who gave her life jacket to an elderly man who escaped unharmed.
The industry hopes you won’t worry about such disasters next time you’re lured by an Internet ad for a $299 cruise. (Max Rossi / Reuters-Landov)
The rest of the 32 killed in the Concordia accident were passengers waiting for crew to lead them to safety. In April divers sent a mini-submarine under the vessel to search the lifeboat deck that is now, effectively, at the bottom of the capsized ship. There they found eight bodies, including those of Gerald and Barbara Heil, a retired couple from Minnesota, and a 5-year-old Italian girl who had floated to the top of the elevator shaft that led to the deck. “They were there on that deck waiting for someone to rescue them, waiting for a lifeboat to come back,” the diver who helped recover the bodies tells Newsweek. “They had trust in the system, but it failed them. You try not to think of the horror when they realized no one was coming back for them.”
With a Tuscan court set to consider whether Capt. Francesco Schettino should stand trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship, Schettino appeared in an interview on Italian TV July 10 and said he was sorry for the accident, explaining that he had been distracted by a phone call when it occurred. Schettino, who described the collision as a “banal accident” in which “destiny” played a role, denies the charges against him and said in the interview that others should share the blame because the ship was under the command of another officer at the time.
Two still missing.
Italian divers on Thursday found five more bodies aboard the shipwrecked cruiseliner Costa Concordia, leaving two people still missing two months after the ship ran aground off the cost of Giglio, Italy. Searchers announced Thursday afternoon that they had found three more bodies, and then authorities said later in the day that two more bodies had been found nearby. Authorities said the bodies were found outside the ship, in a small space between the wreck and the sea bed. This brings the official death toll up to 30.
When divers resumed searching the capsized Costa Concordia, they found the bodies of 8 more passengers, bring the death toll to 25. 7 passengers are still missing.
For Susy Albertini, the wait for her five-year-old daughter Dayana is finally over. Sadly, it did not turn out the way she’d hoped. Wednesday morning, Italian emergency workers searching the wreckage of the Costa Concordia--the cruise liner that crashed off the Tuscan island of Giglio on January 13--found the remains of Albertini’s beloved daughter and seven other people trapped in the submerged section of the ship’s lifeboat deck. When inclement weather forced workers to suspend the sub-aquatic search for victims January 31, Albertini was still waiting on Giglio. She pleaded with workers to let her on the ship. “Let me onboard to find my daughter,” the distraught mother said. “She will answer when I call her.”
A view of the grounded cruise ship Costa Concordia in Giglio, Italy on Feb. 2, 2012 (Pier Paolo Cito / AP Photos)
The discovery of the latest victims brings to 25 the total confirmed dead from the fatal shipwreck. Seven are still missing. Americans Gerry and Barbara Heil from Minnesota are among the missing, but authorities have not yet positively identified any of the victims found Wednesday except the young girl. Relying on information garnered from thousands of surviving passengers interviewed during the investigatory phase of the criminal manslaughter and shipwreck case against the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino and seven other who now also face similar charges, emergency workers were also able to determine that many passengers were waiting for lifeboats on the ships third and fourth decks.
But these decks, near the top of the 17-story ship, have been nearly impossible to access. Not only are they now submerged at the very bottom of the 140,000 tonne wreckage, the decks are also smashed into rocks now cracking under the ship’s immense weight. A recent video shows clean breaks in the rocks that are widening under the ship’s massive weight.
Nearly a month after disaster.
It’s been delayed for almost two weeks because of rough seas and bad weather, but authorities on Sunday began removing fuel from the wreckage of the Costa Concordia, which ran aground nearly a month ago off the coast of Italy. The operation is necessary to prevent an environmental disaster, and officials say it will take 28 days of pumping to empty the tanks. Only 17 bodies of a total of the 32 who are likely dead have been found, but most of the 4,200 passengers and crew survived the Jan. 13 sinking.
As the search for bodies has ended in the deadly shipwreck, the survivors have moved on to the next phase: suing the cruise company, the captain—and anyone else who could be accountable. Barbie Latza Nadeau on how much money could be at stake.
When the Costa Concordia cruise liner sank off the coast of Italy last month, passengers lost millions of dollars’ worth of property, including expensive jewelry and high-priced electronics, not to mention goods from the ship’s many stores that were stuffed with fine jewelry, designer clothes, expensive alcohol, and pricey gadgets. But whatever treasures are buried at sea, there seems to be an even bigger fortune on dry land for survivors.
Technicians and rescuers work near the stricken cruise liner ‘Costa Concordia,’ Jan. 23, 2012 (Filippo Monteforte, AFP / Getty Images)
The Costa Crociere cruise company in Genova, Italy, which is owned by Carnival in Miami, Fla., has been quick to blame its erstwhile daredevil captain, Francesco Schettino, for causing the accident. The cruise company has also accepted its share of the blame and has offered uninjured passengers $14,500 for their trauma. So far, only a few passengers have taken what is essentially a buyout. The rest are waiting for bigger compensation, even though Costa officials call their offer generous. They say the amount is already more than they have to pay “according to the international conventions and laws currently in force.”
But a handful of lawyers working on individual and class-action lawsuits say the “conventions” Costa refers to are actually null and void. Most passengers either bought their tickets over the Internet or through travel agents who did not go over the fine print and explain what rights they were forfeiting, and that lack of disclosure alone may be enough to negate the contract as a whole. The ticket fine print says all eventual lawsuits must be filed in Italy, but the legal teams involved so far agree that the United States—where Carnival is based—is a far better battleground. And because the captain is facing criminal action in Italy, passengers may also benefit from both a personal lawsuit against the parent company and from criminal justice through the Italian court system that could result in additional restitution. Prosecutors in Grosseto, where the criminal case will eventually be heard, are planning to charge Schettino with multiple counts of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning up to 300 passengers on the ship—and he faces an astronomical 2,967 years in prison after all the charges are tallied up. Schettino is currently under house arrest while the criminal case is pending, and prosecutors in both France and Germany have also opened criminal dossiers on behalf of their hundreds of nationals who were passengers—meaning that even if Schettino skirts the law in Italy by entering a plea bargain or otherwise bargaining a lighter prison term, he may still face additional criminal charges in France and Germany.
Threatens pristine marine life on coast.
The tragedy of the Costa Concordia shipwreck on the coast of Giglio, Italy, just keeps getting bleaker. On Tuesday, authorities called off the search for survivors after raising the body count to 17. On Wednesday, they announced that oil is now leaking from the wreck, spreading out into a thin film on the region’s pristine and sensitive waters. The ship holds 500,000 gallons of fuel and other pollutants that authorities fear could wreak ecological havoc on an area that is the home of dolphins, whales, and other animals. Salvage workers are hoping to pump the remaining fuel from the ship, but suspended the effort Wednesday on account of bad weather.
Due to danger to divers.
The search for the missing aboard the wrecked Costa Concordia has come to an end, Italian officials said Tuesday. Italy’s Civil Protection Agency said the rescue had become too dangerous for the divers. In a statement, the agency said the relatives of the 16 people still missing have been informed of the decision. Seventeen bodies have been recovered since the ship ran aground on Jan. 13.
Could be near $175 million.
Who would want to go on a cruise now anyway? The Costa Concordia shipwreck is expected to cost parent company Carnival Corp. between $155 million and $175 million in income, according to company officials. The disaster, which killed 17 when the ill-fated ship ran aground near Tuscany on Jan. 13, has decreased demand for the company. Carnival slashed its marketing activities in the wake of the tragedy, but believes the incident “will not have a significant long-term impact” on its business.
Officials say the ship’s removal may take 10 months.
Officials said on Sunday that removal of the capsized Costa Concordia may take up to 10 months to complete. The announcement came as the search for the missing people and the start of operations to remove 500,000 gallons of fuel were called off after authorities determined that the ship had moved four centimeters over six hours. A 17th body was found over the weekend and identified as crew member Erika Soria Molina, but officials have given up hope of recovering more bodies. The national civil protection official in charge of the operation said, “Our first goal was to find people alive. Now we have a single big goal, and that is that this does not translate into an environmental disaster.”
Plaintiffs claim ‘terror of catastrophic injury, death.’
Six passengers on the wrecked Costa Concordia have filed a lawsuit in Miami against the ship’s owner, Carnival Corp. The plaintiffs, four Americans and two Italians, said in the complaint they were “in terror of catastrophic injury, death, drowning, having been placed in a situation where common sense said the vessel was sinking but the orders from the crew were to return to their cabins.” A crew member of the ship also filed complaint on Jan. 26 in federal court in Chicago, seeking at least $100 million in damages as a class-action plaintiff—meaning he would represent all the victims of the deadly shipwreck. The cruise line has offered the survivors of the wreck $14,000 each in damages. Rescuers found a 17th body aboard the sunken vessel early Saturday; at least 15 people are still missing.
Barbie Latza Nadeau on perma-tanned womanizer Francesco Schettino—and the charges he faces.
Eerie new footage shows the wreckage of the Costa Concordia underwater, as divers search for survivors of the accident.