Wednesday, January 18, 2012

FAILURE !

The first test of a major incident to one of the mega-cruise ships has been a failure.  The MS Costa Concordia  has been a failure of design, a failure of the evacuation procedure, a failure of leadership at both the shipboard level and the Management ashore level.  Sadly however to many of us who sailed in the previous generation of passenger vessels it is much as we had feared and expected.  With 4200 persons on board and the chaotic situation resulting how do the Cruise Lines expect to evacuate 8700 persons such are in the MS Oasis of the Seas and MS Allure of the Seas  there is no allure in these ships for NAUTICAL LOG.


There has been a mass of Media reporting from all sides so much in fact that yesterday NAUTICAL LOG received a call from the Producer of the gossip, news, entertainment show "Inside Edition" for an interview and commentary, we declined directing them to this Blog and its previous Post.  Later in the afternoon there was a similar call from WPIX-TV Pittsburgh, PA.


The most disturbing aspect for NAUTICAL LOG has been the behaviour of the vessel Master, Captain Schettino.  So many stories have been written by so many different people saying so many different things who knows what is the truth.  Well the truth is that it appears he deserted his passengers and we know this by the recording made by the Italian Coastguard Officer of the quite passionate exchange between he and the Master.  At the time the Master was in a lifeboat ashore with hundreds of his passengers still on board and the ship listing heavily against the island cliff.  This record together with the record of the vessel's Black Box will be used by the Italian Prosecutor to investigate and then prefer charges against the Master and Officers.  Anything other than these records is conjecture and NAUTICAL LOG most certainly is not going to repeat stories from either ship crewmembers or the Media.


One does have to wonder at the Management choice of their Masters however.  Leadership basically consists of the two "S's"  that is Style and Substance.  Style is the appearance of the leader that portrays quiet confidence and Substance the knowledge to do the job assigned.  This Italian Master gives the impression of being a playboy given to showing off.  With his too long curly hair down over the collar of his uniform he looks like a nightclub entertainer or hotel staff, not the pleasant, friendly but somewhat reserved ship's Master in Command.  He is described as being personable.  That is a bit weak for a Master, one would prefer to hear that he was a fine seaman with excellent navigational skills interested in his crew and their training to assist in the command a passenger ship.  So then at best the Masters behaviour is irresponsible at worst reprehensible.

 
The Costa Management and owning Carnival Group have also shown lack of knowledge about Passage Plans, threw the Master under the proverbial bus instead of at least public support until the charges have been filed - after all they selected him and placed him in Command of the MS Costa Concordia.


As to the design the vessel has some 17 decks of which only three are in the water leaving a massive lever of 14 decks so it is hardly any surprise that once a hull breech occurred the vessel quickly lost buoyancy and listed. If the island had not been there she would have rolled over and sunk with very possibly total loss of all persons on board.


Now we come to the chaotic scene of the Evacuation. It is clear that the passengers who knew nothing were naturally terrified and the harassed crew were trying to deal with panicked passengers with little or no help from their Command. It appears no announcements were made as to what to do. If, as we have said before in a previous Post, the passengers were instructed in the Safety Protocol prior to even boarding the vessel this would have reduced the panic. No doubt many if not all of the crew were also terrified yet the job was done and even those lost passengers were found with lifejackets on. Let us therefore not start blaming the crew, below the Command level, for the loss of life that occurred it appears to NAUTICAL LOG they were courageous.


NAUTICAL LOG would suggest that the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Office (USCG-MSO) suspend all Costa Line vessels U.S. Passenger Certificates. Each ship will have to re-qualify individually as it enters U.S. Waters starting with the MS Costa Atlantico which NAUTICAL LOG understands is in the Port of Miami today. Every Officer Certificate, every STCW training record must be examined, every lifeboat exercised, every firehose tested. There should be at least three
drills, a simulated accommodation fire, a simulated engineroom fire, and a full evacuation drill with all lifeboats turned outboard at the embarkation deck.  If there is the slightest weakness the drills must be re-exercised.  Never mind the "political correctness", any delay to passengers or expense to the Carnival Group.  The USCG-MSO must ignore those usual pressure phone calls between Senior Cruise Line Management and USCG HQ, the transfer of USCG Officers, which NAUTICAL LOG personally knows about from Safety Officer days, that all too readily occur when faults are found during Inspection and then ordered to let slid by.


If a 4200 persons evacuation cannot be managed think about dealing with 8700 persons holding their ID cards to be passed through those handy dandy card readers to board a "lifeboat" that holds over 300 persons.  Whomever planned all that when the Oasis and Allure entered service do you still think it is realistic?  Are American passengers going to be any less panic stricken than the European ones?  And how about those multi-national 1000 to 1800 crewmembers how will they react?  Do you not really and honestly think that at least a third will screw-up due to being terrified?


The Cruise Industry has become totally irresponsible in its performance as regards safety with Lines run by hotel personnel and not experienced seamen.  NAUTICAL LOG has attended meetings to discuss shipboard safety and made reports of incidents which are just brushed aside by the hotel types running these Cruise Lines the monies spent for entertainment and decor far out ways that allotted to safety and the lowest priority for work orders are safety issues.


Good Watch

Also living in panic or near panic are the 300 seafarers held hostage by pirates off the coast of Puntland, Somalia.  They could be murdered at any moment and see no rescue insight; at least the MS Costa Concordia passengers had that.

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