Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Abandon Ship, Who is First?

The cruise ship Costa Concordia left Civitavecchia, Italy on it’s way to  Savona, Italy.  Somewhere along the way the unthinkable happened.  The ship went off course and grounded off the coast of the island of Giglio. 

The ship, was the first vessel of the Concordia ship class, with sisters Costa Serena, Costa Pacifica, Costa Favolosa, Costa Fascinosa and Carnival Splendor built for Carnival Cruise Lines. Costa Concordia entered service in July 2006 and was one of the largest ships to be built in Italy.  The Costa Concordia is 290.20 metres (952 ft 1 in) long, about 21 metres (68 ft 11 in) longer than RMS Titanic to which this tragedy is being compared to.  There were 4,229 passengers on board at the time of the accident.

Capt. Francesco Schettino is under investigation for the grounding.  The route course was entered correctly into the computer and then the commander, in an unauthorized move, changed the course There is speculation that the course was changed  to show off the ship to the island of Giglio because the head waiter is from Giglio, but this is unsubstantiated at this time.
Very good BBC discussion of the deviation here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16584075

Interactive map: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2012/jan/15/costa-concordia-italian-cruise-ship-interactive?newsfeed=true

This is the island off of which the ship now sits, precariously grounded on its side with a large gash observable. 

What is evident is that the Captain apparently was one of the first to leave the ship and attempted to direct the evacuation from the life boat rather than from on the ship.  Recorded voice records show the Coast Guard ordering the captain to get back on the ship to help with the evacuation.  The captain did not stating that, because of the way the ship was positioned, he was unable to get back on board.  Now he says he "tripped" and fell into the life boat?  Ship accidentally went off course, he accidentally fell into a life boat... He has had more "accidents" than a crash-test dummy.  Does he really think people believe the yarns he is spinning?
There are also reports that there was much chaos and that it was “every man for himself” on board the ship.  There are reports of crew performing admirably and assisting with the evacuation.  The evacuation was made more difficult because of the precarious position of the ship on its side. 
This raises two important questions: first, should the crew be responsible to remain on board risking their lives to ensure all passengers get off and second, is it improper or immoral for men to leave the ship before women and children? 

I am sure that when people are hired, and certainly during their orientation period, the responsibilities of that position are reviewed in detail including what their responsibility is during a disaster.  The person has the opportunity to not accept the position if they feel uncomfortable with the job duties.  I’m sure the thought of “I don’t get paid enough for this” crossed the minds of many during the disaster.  This may be true, they may not be paid enough to risk their lives, but it is a responsibility they were aware of and agreed to when they accepted the position, even if they thought it would never happen.  From accounts of survivors, its seems that the majority of the crew did perform their duties admirably and this seems accurate as the pictures of those being helicoptered off the ship seem to be mostly of crew members who were unable to get into the life boats because they stayed to help others get off.  I have nothing but praise for those, crew and passengers, that acted selflessly during the disaster.  Capt. Francesco Schettino certainly falls into the category of the selfish.  He of all people would be aware of this responsibility to the ship and its occupants.  He blatently ignored his duties for his own preservation above all others.  To me that is a disgrace.

While there were those who acted selflessly during the disaster, there were also those who acted selfishly and as some described, boorishly.  There are reports of men, and I’m sure women, who pushed others aside to get into the life boats.  They took the phrase “every man (or woman) for himself” to heart.  It is difficult to say how one would act when faced with a disaster of this magnitude and with a real possibility of not surviving.  Survival instincts, fight or flight, take over.  Many of the crew and passengers stood their ground and fought to get others off and then there where those whose flight instinct took over and they pushed others aside to flee the sinking ship. 
The evacuation of the Costa Concordia is being compared to the evacuation of the Titanic.  The comparison is that the evacuation of the Titanic was more organized and chivalrous.  The crew defending the right of “women and children first” and they themselves honorably going down with the ship.  There are accounts of men honorably allowing others to get on the lifeboat knowing they would not be saved and sacrificing their lives.  There are comparisons that chivalry is dead and the evacuation of the Costa Concordia is proof of that.  But really, is there proof?  Of course we hear the stories of men that bullied their way past women and children.  That story is much more interesting than “man waits his turn.” 

Should it really be “women and children first?”  Is a woman more important than a man?  Should men be expected to risk their lives for a woman just because he is a man and she is a woman?  It would be the proper and moral thing to do to allow others before you, but because they are human not because they are of one gender or another.  The only exception to this, in my opinion, would be for children to go first along with whoever is accompanying them, be that person male or female.  I also believe that able bodied people should assist the infirm or the elderly on to the boats before them.  This is what I would do. 

I’m sure the “who is first” debate will continue.  One thing most will agree on is that "Captain accidental" should not have been the first one off the ship.  He's guilty for the ship's grounding and the responsible for the lives lost and he deserted the ship and the people on board.  He should sent away to a dark place where other men accidentally find their private parts up his assidental.


  1. I will never be a captain of a ship for the following reason: "The captain goes down with the ship." The guy definitely should have waited until everyone else was off. If every other person was off of the ship before him, then it would be acceptable for him to get off. But it's very probably that there were some people who didn't get off the ship, which is unfortunate.

  2. Yes woman and children first. Also the captain should of try to see if he could get people out and if he do all he could then get out of there but not before hand.

  3. It would have been appropriate for him to remain on the ship during the evacuation and then leave once the officials got there and began their rescue efforts for those who were missing. To be one of the first one's off is despicable.