While we may be dealing with issues involving Carnival Corp.-owned cruise ships here in the U.S. following a slew of maritime accidents, Italy is preparing to wage war against the former captain of the Costa Concordia in court this week.
Pre-trial hearings have begun for Francesco Schettino and six suspects who were indicted on manslaughter and abandoning ship charges after Schettino’s decision to alter the course of the Concordia at the last minute on Jan. 13, 2012 caused the vessel to crash into a giant rock near the coast of Giglio, Italy and partially sink. The cruise ship accident resulted in the deaths of 32 people, but it wasn’t just the accident itself that garnered the attention of the maritime community, but Schettino’s and other crew members’ actions in the wake of the incident.
Concordia survivors recounted hellish stories of the ship’s evacuation process, which could only be described as pure chaos. Passengers explained crew members were unable to communicate with each other and were running around without seeming to have a clue about how to conduct an emergency cruise ship evacuation. Had the cruise line better trained its staff on how to execute an emergency procedure, perhaps the death toll for the accident would not have been as high.
That, however, is a question that will be addressed in court this week. Unfortunately, even though it has been over a year since the tragic Concordia capsizing, Carnival Corp., the parent company of Costa Cruises, has yet to implement a solid strategy to improve safety onboard its vessels.
Cruise companies like Carnival Corp. have specific loopholes in place that allow them to evade any sort of responsibility for accidents that occur on the high seas or in port. Costa Crociere, the owner of Costa Cruises, may have been fined 1 million Euros for the Concordia capsizing, but once the fine is paid, the company will not have to worry about being prosecuted for the cruise ship accident. Instead, it will take part in the hearing not as a guilty party that contributed partially to the incident, but as a victim that lost its ship.
This is an insult to all Concordia victims and their loved ones whose lives were forever changed by the negligence of the cruise line’s crew. Sadly, this isn’t the first, nor will it likely be the last time a cruise company gets away with a maritime accident.
At least Schettino and the other crew members are in for a lengthy summer in court. Well, all but one crewmember. Indonesian helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin, who was suspected of contributing to the accident by misunderstanding a command just moments before the crash, is nowhere to be found. He was assigned a lawyer and the accusations against him will be heard in absentia.
A total of 40 pre-trial hearings lasting through July have been scheduled in Grosseto, Italy against the accused, which will determine whether the case will go to trial. Survivors are allowed to attend the hearings, many of which have already filed lawsuits against Costa Cruises with the help of our cruise ship accident attorneys.
Costa has “compensated” survivors and the loved ones of the deceased with a measly $14,000. But when gauging the irreparable damage done to victims of the Concordia crash against the billions of dollars Carnival Corp. (parent company of Costa) claims in revenue yearly, the compensation pales in comparison to the pain and suffering victims have endured.
Despite the dozens of cruise ship accidents Carnival and its fleets have been involved in since the beginning of the year, the company still claimed $3.6 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2013 alone. Yet, the price for improved shipboard safety is still too high.
It will be a long while before anything is resolved in the Costa Concordia case, but there is one thing we can count on: Costa Cruises will do everything possible to place all the blame on crew members and will avoid taking any sort of responsibility for its role in contributing to the disaster by failing to properly train crew members.
Costa Crociere has denied all accusations that any wrongdoing has occurred on the company’s part, but can we truly be surprised? After all, the cruise industry wouldn’t be a multibillion dollar one if it didn’t work diligently to hide all the tragic accidents that have occurred and devise ways in which to avoid liability.
Photo Credit: telegraph.co.uk