Wednesday, January 18

Captain Coward and the Sinking of the Concordia

There has been so much excellent commentary combined with a whole lot of conjecture on this terrible incident, I didn't want to weigh in on what seems to be a singular act of bravado by a seriously inept commander.  Usually, guys love to show off.  But when Evil Knievel jumps over a cliff, or a motocross racer does it, they usually only put themselves in danger (save for the spectators down below).  
Many people find it compelling to compare the Italian disaster with the Titanic, whose 100th Anniversary is this April.  I don't think that's foolish journalism.  If we are to believe Cameron's depiction of the causes behind the sinking (it wasn't the iceberg, btw), it was the ship owner's desire to arrive in New York's harbor ahead of schedule.  Speed was the cause, and once they saw the iceberg it was simply too late.  No boat or plane can be protected from sheer chutzpah (and I refuse to use the term, "human error" - "spectacularly poor judgment" would be a lot more accurate) by a guy showing off at the helm.  Furthermore, if this act of bravado had taken place off the coast of say, Iceland or Newfoundland, we would be mourning a lot more than the 30 or so who are dead or still missing.
What I find remarkable about the entire fiasco is - believing the Captain's statements made - that he "...Didn't know or didn't think there were rocks so close to the Port of Giglio."  Or his statement of today, that once he realized he was too close, it was too late to maneuver a tidy 8-story city out of harm's way.  
Anyone who has ever swum or rowboated or kyacked around any island can tell you...there are rocks in shallow waters surrounding it as you go out to sea.  But, don't take my word for it:  Captain Schettino could have just meandered into the Aquarium in Genova - the port town where his boat docks - and studied an entire topographical representation in amazing detail of the ocean floors covering our beautiful blue planet.  He could even have skipped the lines, the Aquarium is owned by Costa - the same Company which owns his sunken ship.  For the map image, click on the link here and look at page 2 of the pdf file.
However, judging by comments on online news pages worldwide, many are blaming the "bumbling Italians".  When it comes to our skipper, nothing could be further from the truth.  Italians - like the Greeks before them - have been sailing the seven seas long before other humans dared venture off the land [you can insert here your own metaphor on commandeering sinking ships].  Shipping companies, cruise ships and ferry operators worldwide are often manned by all-Italian crews.  Their skippers and engineers are flawless.  Bravery - and usual calm under pressure is legend (unfortunately not employed by the Italian Coast Guard Captain in his - rightfully placed - extreme frustration) and can be seen in the countless examples of their soldiers and Carabinieri stationed in Iraq & Afghanistan and in hot spots 'round the world.  
When it came to "organization" of the rescue effort, certainly I would fault the captain and his crew.  Misleading announcements picked up by the Spanish couple egressing from their cabin (they prod the crew member, "If it's an electrical outage, why are you wearing a life jacket?!!) and the fact that half the lifeboats where on the side that was listing into the water would reap havoc on any emergency procedures.  But, is this justifiably due to Italian disorganization?  Although I dedicate an entire chapter in my book to disorganization, Hurricane Katrina and the fiasco of America's emergency services in that disaster come to mind...or the response of BP in the Gulf of Mexico, which was entirely English, indeed.  The reason why Captain Sullenberg of the Hudson River landing is so famous is that that kind of cool and outcome in such extreme circumstances is so totally unusual.  [I might add that his boss, the head of USAirways was a total pig-headed idiot when it came to his response].
Nonetheless, for Captain Schettino ("Rollerskate" in English), this is one instance when "rockering" doesn't make for a swift and easy maneuver - and a move that he'll not get out of anytime soon.


For some other good reads, click on these links below (some in Italian):

http://news.yahoo.com/italian-cruise-capt-francesco-schettino-biggest-idiot-2012-211000948.html
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/01/17/145366815/facing-disaster-what-is-a-ships-captain-expected-to-do?ft=1&f=1001&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/18/us-italy-ship-crew-idUSTRE80G1D120120118
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/2f1f39a8-4110-11e1-b521-00144feab49a.html#axzz1jufrjaTr
http://www3.lastampa.it/cronache/sezioni/articolo/lstp/438730/   (article in italian)



3 comments:

Paolo said...

I think the Coast Guard Captain was 100% right in his behaviour. At least he saved a little the face of the country
- Captain Schettino really put a dark shame on our entire Nation
- If it was not for the Coast Guard Captain people abroad might think that all Italians are just like that ... Imbecilles and Cowards
- Sorry for my comment but I live here in the US now....
Paolo

Sarah in deepest darkest Lomellina said...

Couldn't agree more.

The rampant xenophobia (encouraged perhaps by recent EU/Euro hyperbole) demonstrated in the comments section under media stories is getting right on my .... chest area.

Francesca Maggi said...

incredibly, the Captain on the phone to the retired Commodore whom he was trying to salute, joked:
"Any water nearby?" meaning that he was going in even shallower waters than ever before...