- The Australian
Grilled by a Senate committee in Rome today, Costa Crociere chief Pier Luigi Foschi said the company was misled by the luxury liner’s captain about the scale of the disaster after it crashed into rocks off the island of Giglio.
Foschi admitted however that the company – which is part of US industry leader Carnival Corp – did sometimes encourage its captains to sail close to the coast, saying the practice was “in demand” and “helps enrich the product”.
Foschi said Schettino first called Ferrarini about 10 minutes after the 17-deck Costa Concordia hit a rocky outcrop, tearing a massive gash in the hull.
“Schettino said that he had a big problem on board. He told Ferrarini that he had hit a rock and there had been a blackout. The captain said that only one of the sealed chambers was flooded,” Foschi told senators.
In another call, Schettino told Ferrarini that a second sealed chamber was flooded “but said the stability of the ship was not in danger”.
Schettino “was very calm and said the situation was under control”, he said.
But 27 minutes later, Schettino said “the listing of the ship was increasing” and two minutes later he told Ferrarini that the ship would be abandoned.
“Ferrarini says he was completely surprised by the abandonment of the ship. He says that judging from the previous telephone conversations he could not have understood that the situation was so extreme,” Foschi said.
Schettino is under house arrest, accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship along with first officer Ciro Ambrosio.
Investigators today questioned four witnesses who were with the captain at the time of the accident.
In Giglio, the head of rescue operations Franco Gabrielli said it would take “a miracle” to find any more survivors on the half-submerged ship 12 days after the crash.
The confirmed death toll has reached 16 and emergency crews are searching for another 16 still missing.
Fire chief Ennio Aquilino said crews have not been able to reach several parts of the ship because divers can only last a maximum of 50 minutes under water and passageways are cluttered.
Divers are not being allowed to access parts of the ship until tests are conducted given the high level of putrefaction.
US lawyers and Italian consumer group Codacons were to present a class action lawsuit against Carnival later Wednesday on behalf of more than 150 passengers and crew, saying there could be payouts of at least 125,000 euros ($156,000).
Italian lawyer Giulia Bongiorno was also readying a class action suit on behalf of about 30 people.
There were a total of 4229 people on board on the first day of a seven-day cruise when the ship hit the rocks, sparking scenes of panic with many jumping into the sea to escape.
Crews from Dutch company Smit Salvage are looking for ways to extract the ship’s 2380 tonnes of fuel without causing any spill in the Tuscan archipelago, Europe’s biggest marine sanctuary and a popular holiday spot.
Officials said the pumping was not expected to begin before Saturday.
Gabrielli said a thin oil slick measuring some 60,000 square metres may have come from the ship and that there had also been contamination from some toxic substances on board.
More leaks from the investigation into Schettino emerged yesterday, with a recording of a phone conversation the day after the disaster.
“When I understood that the ship was listing, I upped and left,” he says at one point – an apparent contradiction to a statement to prosecutors last week in which he said he fell on to a lifeboat and could not get back on board.
Schettino also pins the blame on unnamed others for the manoeuvre, saying: “It was the advice of the manager: ‘Go that way, go that way’.”
“The rocks were there, but the instruments I had weren’t showing them, so I went through,” he added. “So, here we are and it’s me who’s paying for everything.”
In this case, Foschi stressed however that the manoeuvre “was not authorised”.
The embattled chief executive gave senators a blow-by-blow account of captain Francesco Schettino’s contacts with Roberto Ferrarini, Costa Crociere’s chief crisis unit officer, on the night of the January 13 tragedy.
- Rassegna Stampa Estera