The tragedy that unfolded on the night of 13th January 2012 is one that no one in the cruise industry will ever forget.
Ordered in 2004 and launched a year later at Fincantieri’s Sestri Ponente yard in Genoa, the 114,147 gross tonne Costa Concordia was the first of the Concordia-class cruise ships.
Over time the class of ships included Costa Serena, Costa Pacifica, Costa Favolosa, and Costa Fascinosa. Carnival Splendor also follows the same design, albeit with some modifications.
In September 2005, the Champagne bottle released by model Eva Herzigová at the Christening ceremony failed to smash against the hull – a bad omen in maritime superstition.
On 22nd November 2008, the €450 million Costa Concordia suffered damage to her bow when high winds pushed the ship against its dock at the Sicilian port of Palermo. Thankfully there were no injuries and repairs were carried out soon after.
Sadly the events that unfolded on the night of 13th January 2012 proved catastrophic for the ship itself and for 32 of the 4,252 people on board who lost their lives in the incident.
The ship left the port of Civitavecchia on a week-long Mediterranean cruise at 1918hrs local time. It was scheduled to sail to Savona, Italy; Marseille, France; Barcelona, Spain; Palma, Majorca; Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy; and Palermo, Sicily, Italy, before returning to Civitavecchia.
At around 2145hrs on that fateful night, Costa Concordia struck rocks off the small island of Giglio, Italy. The ship was travelling at approximately 16 knots when a gargantuan rock penetrated the hull, allowing water to flood the engine room, in-turn causing the vessel to list. At around 2200hrs the ship began to drift towards the port of Giglio. At 2233hrs the haunting general emergency alarm was raised prompting passengers and crew to race to their assigned muster stations. By 2248hrs the vessel settled on the rocky sea bed it would call home for many years, listing more than 30 degrees. Captain Francesco Schettino gave the order to abandon ship at 2254hrs. In a mere 109 minutes, the lives of 3,229 passengers and 1,023 crew members on-board had been affected by this nightmare.
In the years after the accident, a mammoth engineering task followed with the aim to recover the ship in its entirety and to protect the local environment. A technique known as ‘parbuckling’ was used to upright the ship through the assistance of steel cabling and floatation tanks affixed to the vessel. The recovery operation, including the scrapping of the vessel and repairing the damage to the island of Giglio, is estimated to top the €1.5 billion mark.
32 people sadly died on that fateful night in January 2012. The 27 passengers were: Barbara Heil (USA); Brunhilde Werp (Germany); Christina Mathi Ganz (Germany); Dayana Arlotti (Italy); Egon Hoer (Germany); Elilsabeth Bauer (Germany); Francis Servel (France); Gabriel Grube (Germany); Gerald Heil (USA); Giovanni Masia (Italy); Gual Guillermo (Italy); Horst Galle (Germany); Inge Schall (Germany); Jean-Pierre Micheaud (France); Jeannette Gannard (France); Josef Werp (Germany); Luisa Antonio Virzi (Italy); Margarethe Neth (Germany); Margrit Schoeter (Germany); Maria D’Introna (Italy); Maria Grazia Trecarichi (Italy); Michael Blemand (France); Mylene Litzler (France); Norbert Joseph Ganz (Germany); Pierre Gregoire (France); Siglinde Stumpf (Germany); and William Arlotti (Italy). The five crew members were Erika Fani Soria Molina (a waitress from Peru); Girolamo Giuseppe (a drummer from Italy); Russel Terence Rebello (a waiter from Italy); Sandor Feher (a violinist from Hungary); and Tomas Alberto Costilla Mendoza (a cleaning supervisor from Peru).
Many of their gut-wrenching tales are documented on this website. Erika Fani Soria Molina, for example, gave up her life-jacket to help an elderly passenger. Girolamo Giuseppe gave up his seat in a lifeboat to save a child. Russel Terence Rebello helped passengers into life-jackets and onto lifeboats as did Sandor Feher.
While Costa Concordia arrived in its home-port of Genoa on 27th July 2014 ready for dismantling, the original location proved to be too difficult for removing materials. On 11th May 2015, it was moved to a new location at the mouth of the port to gain easier vehicular access.
I sailed past the remains of Costa Concordia aboard MSC Preziosa last month as she lay in Genoa. It was a very solemn and sombre moment as MSC Preziosa crept past the vessel.
On 11th February 2015, following an eighteen-month trial, Captain Schettino was found guilty of the manslaughter of 32 passengers and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He is currently appealing the decision. Yesterday he released a 600-page book entitled ‘Le Verita Sommerse’ which translates as ‘The Truth Submerged’. Co-written with journalist Vittoriana Abate, the book details his account of the last moments of the tragedy of the Costa Concordia.
It is worth bearing in mind that sweeping changes across the cruise industry were made in the wake of this disaster. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the European Cruise Council (ECC) and the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) all adopted a new policy requiring all embarking passengers to participate in a mandatory muster drill before departure. The CLIA and ECC also introduced new policies to ensure that all bridge officers agree on the route before departing, all ships carry increased numbers of life jackets for emergency use, and access to the Bridge is strictly limited.
Lessons have been learned from this disaster, making cruise holidays much safer for all. No cruise line would ever want to see a repetition of an event like this – ever.
Has the Costa Concordia tragedy put you off cruise holidays altogether, or made you change which cruise lines you sail with? Leave a comment below.