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Costa Concordia Owner Had Early Word Of Accident

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The owner of the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship had early word of the historic accident, according to emerging reports. The liner, owned by the Italian company, Costa Crociere SpA, is operated by Costa Cruises, a unit of U.S.-based Carnival Corporation.

Testimony presented by Costa Crociere to the Italian Senate revealed that it was aware—within minutes and, shockingly, more than one hour before the 4,200 passengers were told to evacuate—that the ship was flooding as a result of a crash off the Tuscan coast, wrote The Wall Street Journal. The testimony delivered by Pier Luigi Foschi, chief executive of Costa Crociere was, said The Journal, the first time the company publicly acknowledged that Captain Francesco Schettino had been keeping the company advised on crisis events.

On January 13, the Costa Concordia struck a rock off Tuscany’s Giglio Island, said NewsInferno. The crash tore a 160-foot gash in its hull, capsizing the vessel, and has left at least 16 people dead; 19 remain missing.

A Costa Crociere spokesman declined to comment on the matter to the Journal and Foschi has never said if the Costa Crociere’s head of marine operations, Roberto Ferrarini, tried to reach the Coast Guard. “Either one of them should have called the Coast Guard,” said Bill Doherty, an experienced shipmaster with Nexus, a maritime-safety consultancy, wrote The Journal. When a ship collides with rock, the standard operating procedure for ship commanders is to immediately advise the coast guard, alert other ships in the area, and ensure passengers are positioned for evacuation, Doherty told The Journal.

It seems, noted The Journal, that Foschi’s testimony was based on a memo that Ferrarini wrote. Ferrarini “fielded” at least six calls from Schettino during the 73 minutes from when the ship crashed and its evacuation alarm was sounded, said Foschi, who also said that the first four calls, made between 9:57 and 10:33, involved Schettino discussing water flooding the hull and problems in keeping the vessel upright and afloat. Foschi’s recent account, said The Journal, contradicts what he first said on January 16, in which he alleged that Schettino only first alerted the cruise line of an “unidentified” emergency at 10:06.

Ferrarini, despite the numerous phone call attempts from the liner’s captain, said he “didn’t understand that the situation was taking such an extreme form,” according to Ferrarini and a lawyer for Schettino, wrote The Journal

While Schettino and Ferrarini were on the phone, the Italian Coast Guard began receiving passenger complaints, which led to the Coast Guard radioing the ship’s bridge at 10:14. In his testimony last week, Schettino, told the Italian judge that passengers were not immediately advised of the situation because he didn’t want to create a panic situation, wrote the Journal. Instead, said Schettino, he focused on evacuation.

NewsInferno recently wrote that Tuscany’s chief prosecutor, Beniamino Deidda, said Schettino is not the only one responsible for the disaster and that investigators should focus beyond Schettino’s behavior and into that of the luxury liner’s owners. Initially, Costa Cruises blamed Schettino for the accident, citing, in part, his cowardly behavior during the crisis, said NewsInferno.

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