The recent events involving the Costa Concordia cruise ship have intrigued, saddened and shocked me. Intrigued that a £400,000,000 cruise ship could not detect its impending doom and end up like this. Saddened by the loss of life. But most of all I am truly shocked by the captain and first officer abandoning ship before the passengers and crew were safe.
I am not aware of many major recent similar shipping disasters and as a result I may be about to make a sweeping generalisation, but the point is interesting nonetheless.
I read a lot of air crash investigation reports. I find them interesting and it’s useful for me in my line of work to understand what can go wrong and to get an overall better understanding of the situation pilots face in the cockpit. Out of all the major recent air crashes I have read about never have I ever heard of the captain evacuating the plane before all crew and passengers were safe. Examples of this are the Heathrow BA38 B777 crash where both engines failed shortly before landing and as a result the aircraft landed short of the runway. The passengers evacuated and the captain was last off the plane. The US Airways 1549 crash in which an A320 ditched in the Hudson river due to a double engine failure. It was a dangerous evacuation in freezing cold waters. Yet, as the plane was sinking, yes sinking, the captain went up and down the plane to make sure everybody was off before leaving himself. These are only 2 of the most well known incidents, there are many more and I’d challenge you to find an occasion where the captain has left before everyone else. These people are true heroes. Not only did they manage to safely land their planes under exceedingly difficult conditions but they put themselves in danger to ensure everyone was safe. This is why these people get paid their ridiculously high salaries, and rightly so.
A ship, I know, is completely different but the situation is similar. I’m not suggesting the captain should have checked every single of the 100′s of cabins in the ship, no that would be silly. What I’m saying is that he should have remained on board to co-ordinate the evacuation. This captain, to me, appears to think only of himself and seemed to have minimal concern for the 4000 passengers and crew on board. He endangered lives and I imagine will be found guilty, directly or indirectly, of multiple manslaughter. We can only hope this is not a common occurance in shipping incidents.
A captain should remain on board until he is sure a safe evacuation is complete and a rescue mission underway for those people trapped. Whatever happened to going down with the ship?
Update: I’ve just found this article too. It’s an Italian Coastguard captain telling the captain of the Costa Concordia to get back on his ship.