The 4,232 passenger cruise ship Costa Concordia grounded after it struck a rock formation near the Italian island of Giglio on Friday, January 13, 2012. At the time of this article, 5 people are reported dead, 17 missing and scores injured.
The Concordia was sailing from Civitavecchia to Savona when the shipwreck occurred. The vessel struck a rock at night tearing a 150 foot gash in its side and bottom. Water entering the cruise ship caused it to list dangerously to one side. Though badly damaged, the Concordia was able to maneuver to shallower waters in order to expedite evacuation efforts. Maritime investigators are still trying to determine exactly what caused the ship to run aground. Most amazingly is the Concordia sails that route every week. It is also interesting that no distress call was sent until after the evacuation was started.
The cruise ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, 52, has been detained by Italian police and is under investigation for manslaughter and abandoning the ship. Captain Schettino, an 11 year employee of Costa Cruises, claims the rocks the ship struck were not properly marked on nautical charts. He also claims he was the last one to leave the disabled vessel. First officer Ciro Ambrosio has also been detained.
Though the Concordia's passengers were mostly European, there were over 100 Americans on board. As the Concordia was on an Italian voyage and did not touch an American port during the cruise, United States law will most likely not apply to this disaster. Instead, the more restrictive Athens Convention will most likely govern any wrongful death and personal injury action stemming from this disaster. Unlike American maritime law which does not have damage caps, the Athens Convention limits cruise lines' liability to a maximum of approximately $71,000 for each person who died or was injured.
The Concordia's grounding is just the latest in a series of mishaps involving Costa cruise ships within recent years. In 2010, the Costa Europa violently struck a pier at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt when the captain decided to dock the vessel in high winds instead of skipping the port like other cruise ships scheduled to dock that day. That unfortunate event injured 4 passengers and killed 3 crewmembers including spa workers employed by the Florida based Steiner company which manages spas for several major cruise lines. Also in 2010, the Costa Classica collided with a cargo ship in China's Yangtze River injuring three people.
Costa is a subsidiary of the Miami based Carnival Corporation. Costa primarily operates cruise ships in the Mediterranean but does sail from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and sometimes Miami, Florida in the winter.
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