Monday, January 16, 2012

16 January 2012 Where’d that reef come from?

Disaster at sea: Luxury cruise turns into nightmare
By Ashley Hayes and Dan Rivers, CNN
updated 11:03 AM EST, Mon January 16, 2012

          There have already been too many comparisons to the sinking of the Titanic.  The loss of life resulting from the unintentional grounding of the Costa Concordia is negligible unless one of those lives is of your family.  As maritime disasters run, this is not likely to spawn a folk song/pro-war song (Reuben James), a protest song (Fair the well, Titanic), or a stage play/movie ( Night To Remember).  A cheap budget, direct to DVD video may surface (Thresher, Kursk)
          The photos and video show the massive ship laid over on its starboard side with much of the upper decks superstructure submerged.   There is an immense gash in the hull beneath the normal waterline.  Looking at the degree of list, it is easy to project the ship turning turtle if the ship had been in only slightly deeper water. 
          The reef that apparently sank the ship is clearly visible above the calm waters.  The Italian coast guard says the charts of the area plainly mark the hazard.  The cruise line is already throwing the captain to the sharks – light of his rapid departure for dry land, leaving his passengers and crew alone in the dark – quite appropriate. 
          If the ship was navigating with paper charts, the reported power failure should not have mattered.  If there was a GPS/INS/auto chart system in use, a power failure may have led to erroneous recalibration.  However, that should have automatically been checked against paper charts to verify position and direction of travel. 
          The port side lifeboats became useless as the list brought them above the length of deployable cable; the starboard side boats may well have been carried below the side of the hull.  It will be interesting to see what changes in maritime law and safety provisions evolve from this shipwreck.  
          It is certain that there were multiple human errors resulting in injury, loss of life, and of property.  It will also be interesting to see how salvage is carried out, and by whom.  There should be some great bargains for cruises between now and the end of spring.

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