Italian Cruise Ship “runs aground”

January 14th, 2012

By Dan Miller

It has been widely reported that the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia “slammed into shallow water off Italy’s western coast.”

Costa Concordia agroundAuthorities are looking at why the ship didn’t hail a mayday during the accident near the Italian island of Giglio on Friday night, officials said.

“At the moment we can’t exclude that the ship had some kind of technical problem, and for this reason moved towards the coast in order to save the passengers, the crew and the ship. But they didn’t send a mayday. The ship got in contact with us once the evacuation procedures were already ongoing,” Del Santo said.

According to Business week,

Cabin steward Deodato Ordona told the British Broadcasting Corp. there was a “roaring sound” before the ship began to tilt. He said the vessel tilted to the left and then the right before the captain announced an order to abandon ship.

There were 3,200 passengers on the ship, comprising 1,000 Italians, 500 Germans, 160 French and 250 from the U.S., Costa Corciere said on its website. Emergency procedures started immediately though were impeded by the ship’s listing, it said in a statement. The cause of the incident cannot be confirmed, it said.

Costa Concordia agroundInitial reports of such events are usually sketchy and raise many questions.  One of mine is how in the world a modern cruise ship, presumably with more sophisticated electronic gear that was available on my sailboat nearly a decade ago, could have got so dangerously close to land without correcting course to avoid running aground.

I have no way to verify this January 14th story from Four Winds and thus far have seen no similar account elsewhere. Still, it seems worth posting anyway.  It says:

A “flash” message received in the Kremlin today from the Northern Fleet Command, whose Russian Navy flotilla is in the Mediterranean Sea after having just left their Syrian port of call, reports that the anti-submarine ship Admiral Chabanenko has detected the firing of a torpedo having the “unmistakable signature” of one fired from a kilo-class submarine near Isola del Giglio a popular vacation island about 18 miles off the Italian Tuscan coast.

Within 10 minutes from the detection of this torpedo being fired, this “flash” message continues, a distress call was received from a cruise ship nearing the port of Isola del Giglio Costa named Costa Concordia [photo of sinking top left], and owned by owned by Genoa-based Costa Cruises, stating that it had been “attacked” and was in “immediate danger of capsizing.”

Reports from the London Telegraph about this attack state that the Costa Concordia’s passengers’ dinner was “interrupted by a loud boom around 8 pm local time” with an initial announcement claiming that the ship was suffering an electrical failure, ordering everyone onboard to don life-jackets, and appearing to confirm this “flash” message of it being an attack.

The Northern Fleet Command further states that after the initial distress call from Costa Concordia it was ordered by the US Naval Air Station Sigonella (located in Sicily and known as “The Hub of the Med”) to cease open broadcasts and, instead, use NATO encrypted communications only. [Note: Due to past attacks on cruise liners carrying international passengers, all Western ships of this type are required to carry NATO encrypted radios.]

Most disturbing about this “flash” message, however, is its stating that the only known submarine currently suspected to be in the Mediterranean Sea is one, or possibly two, possessing kilo-class torpedoes belong to the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN).

If accurate, the story suggests that our troubles with Iran get a tad worse.

(This article was first published at The PJ Tatler.)

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2 Responses to “Italian Cruise Ship “runs aground””

  1. Tom Carter |

    Here’s a good Daily Mail article with excellent photos. One is a large photo of the gash in the side of the ship with a large rock or piece of reef embedded in it.

    The article also has a graphic of the ship’s course, showing that it was four miles off course when it hit a submerged reef. One has to wonder how a crew of the presumed quality of a ship like this could have let that happen. But then, the KAL 747 that the Soviets shot down was hundreds of miles off course, so who knows….

    From the damage shown in the photo, it doesn’t look at all like what would have been caused by a torpedo or any other kind of explosive, like a limpit mine.

    If, as reported, the captain didn’t order a “mayday” to be sent or if he personally abandoned ship while there were still passengers on board, then he has a lot to answer for.

  2. Dan Miller |

    Tom, it’s all very strange and, at this point, I suppose incompetence may be the most likely explanation for what happened. Lack of attention might also explain it, but it’s one thing to be inattentive while cruising comfortably far from land and quite another to be inattentive when close to land and heading to port.

    Massive equipment malfunctions may have occurred; but if the ship was four miles off course, merely peeking out from the bridge should have provided enough locational information — that the ship was getting too close to land and shallow water — in time to head for deeper, better charted and less hazardous water. Visibility does not seem to have been a problem.

    If the ship lost power before going off course, she would have remained in motion for a while but her speed would have decreased somewhat before hitting the rock. Possibly, anchors could have been deployed to decrease her speed a bit more upon reaching shallower water. Even without doing that, her speed should have diminished sufficiently during her approach to the grounding site that a hole of the size shown, stuffed with an embedded rock ripped from off the ocean floor, seems unlikely.

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