As many of you know I am an admiralty attorney in addition to being a luxury travel agent. It may seem strange, but as you will now see, there is a true synergy between the two professions.
I previously stated that I would withhold comment until I knew more of the facts. I now know more and feel comfortable making some responsible, educated, comments and observations. Last evening on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum I said the following (slightly edited here):
“There are many reports and, to be sure, there is some truth in most, but total truth in pretty much none.
What I do know is that the Captain did not have authority from Costa to alter the course of the ship (which has made this journey many times). What I also know is that the change of course had to be known and intentional as there are alarm systems which notify (quite persistently) any time a ship strays from its programed course.
I also know, from the industry releases, that the captain was a – get this: a mere Security Officer in 2002 – and became a captain in 2006. This is, to me, outrageous. (Wait till you read my article on Captain Geir-Arne Thue-Nilsen, captain of the Seabourn Quest for the World Cruise, which I am about to publish about what a qualified captain’s experience is.) Logging time at sea so that you can get your 3,000+ gross ton ticket should never, ever, be enough.
Troubling more is the fact that the captain should have stayed on the ship while rescue operations were underway. I cannot fathom how he left his post…even if he claims all the known passengers were off the ship (which I am not confident was the case). [Note: The transcript confirming it was not the case is set forth below.]
Now as to why the ship came in close: Only one time prior – for the Festival of San Lorenzo – had the ship altered its course. But even in that singular instance (so the island could wave to the ship and visa versa) it was nowhere near where the accident happened. Even if true, one never, ever, responsibly plots a course with no room for error. Essentially shooting the ship between two rock outcrops is inexcusable regardless of whether there was an understanding of clear water being below the ship. What is to port and starboard matters just as much.
But the thing that really gets me is that it seems pretty clear that watertight doors were left open. If those doors were shut- as required by law and regulations – then a compartment might have flooded, but there is no way the entire ship could. What seems like the arrogant, rule-breaking, manner of the captain filtered down to the engineering crew as well. (Not the first time I have seen this!)”
Today the Port Authority has released the transcripts of the communications with Captain Schettino and, to me they are appalling. While I am sure Captain Schettino was in shock and panicked, resulting in his unforgivable behavior, the point is that if he was fully and properly trained that training and his experience would have prevented him from acting as he did. (Just ask anyone in the military how they are trained to react.):
There are still more questions than answers, but one thing I am very, very, confident of: Nothing like this will happen again. With six souls confirmed dead, 29 still missing and probably somewhere around US$1,000,000,000 – not all Carnival Corp.’s – in damages, liability claims, lost revenues from the ship and lost sales, (yes, economies play a significant role) there will be some significant changes…on some ships (as the vast majority of cruise ships fortunately are run in a safe, conservative, manner they do not need them)…to assure such things never happen again.