Largest Passenger Ship Lost

In ship historian Peter Newall’s words, “COSTA CONCORDIA (snip) the largest passenger ship to be lost in peace time, with passengers aboard, since TITANIC, 100 years ago”.

Today another survivor, a senior member of the ship’s crew, was brought out of the overturned hull. The man is reported to have a serious leg injury.  Also today, two more bodies were discovered, bringing the death toll up to five.

Questions abound concerning the tragic accident unfolding in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The vessel’s track broadcast from the night of the accident seems to indicate the ship was heading on a straight course at about 15 knots, then perhaps following the moment of impact, there was a slowing and turning north.

Reader David H. records that, “From 20:23 to 20:37, it (COSTA CONCORDIA) was on course 285 at 15.5 knots. Next 18 mins. roughly course 350, slowing to 11 knots.”

Hull damage, COSTA CONCORDIA, sent in by reader attributed to photographer Robert Vongher

Reviewing the many photographs and video shot of the hull, are we looking at a huge rock scooped up by the ship and stuck in the damaged port side?

MaritimeMatters reader, Bob Graham asks, “Did the CONCORDIA possibly strike an uncharted “pinnacle rock” just after her northbound transit of the island and the mainland? Lying in areas of ostensibly deep water such protuberances go undetected until ‘discovered,’ often by accident.”

It appears the CONCORDIA was turned back, towards the lights and possible safety of Giglio, before conditions rapidly worsened, leaving passengers to struggle as attempts were made to overcome the severe list and bring the ship close to shore.

While the investigation ramps up, the media has focused on Captain Francesco Schettino (detained by Italian police), the “black box” (removed by authorities yesterday), and the question of which came first: the power failure causing the ship to drift onto a reef, or the striking of the reef which caused the power to fail. Was the ship off course? What led up to the sudden uncontrollable list to starboard and what of the honeymoon couple trapped in their cabin for 24 hours following the accident?

A comment about lifeboats from a reader William, who says, “The CONCORDIA follows a modified design plan to Carnival’s Conquest class of which I am a former ships staff officer. (I served on board and was on the newbuild of the CONQUEST, itself, as well as a number of other Carnival vessels)”.

William continued, “While the ANDREA DORIA was a different matter all together, on board modern ships, including the CONCORDIA, there are exactly Double the number of lifeboats required to evacuate everyone specifically, so that if a ship is listing too much to launch from one side, they move to the other side — which is exactly what happened here. Even if the boats are totally unusable for some reason, there are sufficient life rafts ready to launch on both sides. (most crew members are actually assigned to evacuate on life rafts so that guests can have the safer life boats, which is why you see some rafts deployed)”.

The inquiry following this harrowing shipwreck will surely answer all these questions and perhaps also answer one I that have been asked repeatedly, “How could this happen?”

Thanks for Ezra Pendleton, Peter Knego, Robert Vongher, Shawn Dake and all MaritimeMatters commentors

Martin Cox

Martin Cox

MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland.Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.
Martin Cox
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