Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Costa Concordia Passengers Learn Difficult Lessons about Ship Safety

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Costa Concordia Passengers Learn Difficult Lessons about Ship Safety

Article excerpt

Hard to believe, right? Big, established cruise line. Well mapped, familiar waters. A route the ship cruised every week.

So how could the Costa Concordia run aground? Tear a hole 160 feet wide into her hull? List almost sideways so shockingly fast? How, within swimming distance of land, could a modern cruise ship become a Titanic-like disaster?

Eventually, explanations will come. But there are immediate lessons to be learned from the Concordia shipwreck.

Lesson 1: Don't assume you're safe.

You'd think that on a modern cruise ship run by the world's most successful cruise company (Carnival Corp. is Costa's parent company, by the way), every vessel would be in the shippest of shape.

Technology, of course, will keep us safe. Every cruise comes with the opportunity for passengers to tour the bridge. The command center is presented in a manner designed to instill confidence -- if not awe. Admittedly, the Concordia was built in 2006, but technology even way back then was still pretty good, I'd imagine.

And there are national and international standards of safety, right?

The supposedly mandatory evacuation drills conducted at the beginning of each cruise are also designed to assure us there's a Plan B in case of emergency, along with providing a dry run of what we should do if the unthinkable happens.

We're also primed to have confidence in the captain of the ship, who always seems to have stepped right out of central casting. On paper, anyway, the Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, seems trustworthy: 11 years with Costa; a native of Italy, so no stranger to Italian coastal waters; and heck, he was navigating the same itinerary week after week after week.

At least until he was taken into custody by local authorities on charges of abandoning ship and manslaughter.

Now Costa officials, in their latest update, admit there's evidence of "significant human error." Hey, nobody's perfect -- or sober, law-abiding, or even rational -- all the time.

And along with mercurial human behavior, count on those inconvenient technology crashes and failures that can send us back to the Stone Age in an instant. …

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