Sunday, January 22, 2012

Italian Shipwreck, the Plot Thickens II: Cruise Ship Owners OK'd 'Sail-By Salutes' Close to Shore As Publicity Stunts, Captain Says


An update today on the Italian shipwreck disaster in the New York Times says in part:

"Also on Sunday, Italian news media published excerpts of a leaked transcript of the interrogation of the ship’s captain [Francisco Schettino], whom the cruise line has blamed for causing the crash by departing from the approved course and coming too close to shore. In the transcript, the captain said that company officials had asked the ship to swing close to shore as a publicity stunt, a move he described as a 'recurring practice.'”

Also this, in Britain's highly excitable but occasionally accurate Daily Mail today, which says in part:

"Schettino said: 'The salute to Giglio was arranged and wanted by Costa before we left Civitavecchia [the port of departure]. It was for publicity reasons. We have carried out those sail-by salutes all over the world -- Sorrento, Capri. I have sailed past Giglio other times, when I was captain of Costa Europa.'

"'The sail-past Giglio had been advertised in the daily ship news letter - we should have done it the week before but we couldn't because the weather had been bad. They insisted. They said, "We can be seen and we can get some publicity", so I said OK.'"


The other day (see previous post), I ran a link to video showing the Costa Concordia passing perilously close last August to Giglio, the island off which it is now wrecked after hitting rocks close to shore. The ship was saluting the island during the annual San Lorenzo festival.

That video indicates that sailing dangerously close to shore was not just a one-time lark by the hapless Schettino, who has been blamed for the disaster by the ship's owners, the Carnival cruise line company, and in most media accounts.

I said then, extremely mindful of how wrong it is to rush to criminalize any major accident before all of the questions have been answered, let's be aware of the perils of exclusively vilifying the captain, without knowing many, not to mention all, of the facts concerning the role of the ship's owners, a subsidiary of the giant Carnival cruise-line company.

In fact, Costa, the Carnival company, has some serious explaining to do -- assuming the Italians (and the media) can get past their personalization of the accident by focusing mostly on a simple, juvenile narrative of bad guy (the evidently nitwit captain) and good guy (the Italian coast guard captain who ordered the ship's skipper to re-board the ship that he had evidently cravenly abandoned).

Let's get to the facts. And we do that by asking tough questions of all of the people involved, not just by tossing the captain behind bars and reviling him in a narrative that may turn out to be hastily drawn.


No comments: