The reports coming in about Captain Francesco Schettino’s actions and the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia disaster are disturbing. He is under house arrest and Italian authorities are accusing him of manslaughter for abandoning his ship — when there were still passengers and crew on the ship. The death toll is at 11 and there are still 20 passengers and crew missing. We often hear about heroic deeds during accidents and disasters, and then the opposite — cowardly actions as in the case of Captain Schettino.
Veering off the normal and approved course was not due to weather or some mechanical malfunction. It was the Captain’s decision to take the ship closer to this Tuscan island, as a favor to the ship’s chief waiter, who is from the island. Read more on this link to BBC News.
And on the topic of maritime disasters — what do you think the answer would be if you asked (just about anyone) the following question:
What is the worst (peacetime) maritime disaster in the world?
Most would answer the Titanic, right? When the Titanic sank in 1912, 1,517 people died out of over 2,223 passengers.
But that answer would be wrong as sadly, a tragedy in Philippine waters has the unfortunate distinction of the worst peacetime maritime disaster record in the world.
On December 20, 1987, 4,375 passengers and crew lost their lives when the Sulpicio Lines-owned ship, the MV Dona Paz struck the oil tanker MT Vector, causing an explosion that set both ships on fire.
The MV Dona Paz was traveling from Tacloban, the capital of the island of Leyte to Manila. The ship manifest listed just under 1500 passengers, so they allowed almost 3 times more passengers to board the ship. There were only 26 survivors — 2 crew members from the MT Vector and 24 passengers from the MV Dona Paz.
In this day and age and with modern maritime navigation equipment and systems, it is perplexing that these accidents continue to happen.
Despite international safety regulations in place, most maritime tragedies still come down to an individual’s poor decision — not an act of God or the weather, not major mechanical malfunctions….but human error.
Related: Lola Jane’s blog post about the Filipino crew members praised for heroism on the Costa Concordia