The Costa Concordia hit a rock close to the Isola Del Giglio, Italy on 13th January 2012. In this article we piece together the various stories and reports of the disaster to create a comprehensive review of events to date. Of course further details will emerge later this year during the inquiry and trial of the captain as well as during the salvage of the vessel and we will provide further updates in our daily articles.
It is 9:42pm on the night of 13th January 2012. The Costa Concordia, a 952ft long Italian cruise ship with 3,206 passengers and 1,023 crew on board, is on a seven night cruise bound for the Italian port of Savona. Passenger muster drills which legally don’t have to be carried out for 24 hours but are normally completed before or shortly after sailing have not taken place.
The ship has left the Italian mainland port of Civitavecchia, a major cruise embarkation port and the main port for the Italian capital Rome, at 7:33pm. The 114,137 ton vessel built in 2006 is the largest ship ever to have been built in Italy and one of the larger cruise liners in the world.
The Captain, Francesco Schettino, has turned off the ship’s navigation alarm at 9:39pm and is navigating by sight as he deviates from the programmed course to perform a sailpast of the Isola del Giglio. Some Costa ships have occasionally performed this sailpast before but Schettino is taking the €450million Concordia much closer to the island claiming that “I knew those seabeds well. I had done the move three, four times”.
The ship’s Maitre d’hôtel is on the bridge watching the ship sail past his home having been invited by the Captain. Schettino himself is on the phone to retired Costa Captain Mario Palombo telling him “Seeing as we’re passing the island, we’ll sound the siren for you”. Suddenly he sees waves breaking on the Le Scole reef about 800 metres south of the entrance to Giglio harbor on the east coast of the island. He turns the Concordia abruptly but the side of the ship hits the exposed reef at 16 knots embedding a large rock in the port side of the ship and creating a 160ft gash. Two long strips of steel are sheared from the ship’s hull breaching three of the seven watertight compartments.
Most passengers are in the main dining room when they hear a loud bang and feel a shudder. Dishes crash to the floor and the ship lists to port. A crew member speaking over the ship’s public address system blames the situation on an electrical failure.
A few minutes later the head of the engine room warns Captain Schettino that the ship has an irreparable 70 metre tear in the hull and that the engines and generators are submerged. The Concordia now continues north past Giglio harbor under her own momentum.
At 9:56pm, Schettino phones Roberto Ferrarini, an officer at Costa Cruise’s head office. “Roberto, I ****ed up” he says.
At 10:10pm, the ship makes a sharp turn south causing it to list to Starboard by about 20 degrees. This list would later cause difficulty in launching the lifeboats.
At 10:12pm, the ship is contacted by the coastguard on the Italian Mainland following mobile phone calls from passengers to Italian police reporting that the ship was in trouble. An unidentified crew member tells the coastguard that the ship is suffering from an “electrical blackout”.
At 10:20pm, passenger video footage shows passengers in lifejackets being told by the crew that “everything is under control” and urging them to return to their cabins.
At 10:26pm, the Captain tells the Port of Livorno’s harbormaster that the ship has taken in water on the port side and requests a tug.
At around 10:30pm, nearly an hour after the collision, the ship’s cook claims that Captain Schettino orders dinner, whilst a police patrol boat calls the Concordia but receives no reply.
It’s 10:42pm when the ship’s crew finally sound the general emergency alarms and alert port authorities to the collision.
At 10:44pm, the Concordia comes to rest at Punta Del Gabbinara leaning at an angle of 70 degrees in 20 metres of water. Some passengers jump into water and swim to shore whilst others are forced to wait as the crew delay launching the lifeboats.
The off-duty captain of the Costa Serena, Roberto Bosio, happens to be onboard catching a lift back to Savona. Bosio, suspecting that ship is doomed, begins to co-ordinate the evacuation of the ship whilst, back on the bridge, video shows Captain Schettino seeming confused and dithering about what to do.
Finally, at 10:50pm, the order to abandon ship is given.
At around 11:30pm, according to investigators, Captain Schettino leaves the ship.
At 12:42am Captain Schettino tells the coastguard that he’s in a lifeboat, he would later claim that he tripped and fell into it.
At 1:04am an Air Force officer is lowered onboard from a helicopter and reports 100 people still aboard.
At 1:46am Italian Coastguard Captain Gregorio De Falco contacts Schettino in the lifeboat and orders him to get back onboard the ship. Schettino makes various excuses as to why he can’t.
At 3:44am, the Air Force officer reports that around 40 to 50 passengers are still on board.
At 4:46am the Port of Livorno harbormaster notes that the evacuation is completed in his log.
The days immediately after the disaster
Italian dive teams began to search the wreck and sea bed the following day (14th January 2012) in an operation that lasted for 16 days until 30th January.
The divers worked in pitch black conditions with large items of furniture floating around inside the wreck. They worked in pairs for safety searching each area slowly in a zigzag manner for up to 40 minutes at a time. The two torches on their helmets provided visibility from a few inches to about 2 feet.
On 14th January two South Korean newlyweds Jeong Hye Jim and Kideok Hanmarito who were rescued from a cabin two decks above the waterline. The ship’s Cabin service director Manrico Giampedroni was also rescued after suffering a broken leg.
The search effort had to be suspended several times as the ship, which was resting on a marine ledge with a drop of 68m, shifted slightly. Holes were blasted into the Concordia’s hull to access further areas.
On 20th January, divers recovered the body of the 16th victim on deck 4.
On 28th January the 17th victim, Peruvian crew member Erika Fani Soriamolina was recovered from a submerged part of the wreck on deck 6.
On 12th February, after being delayed due to poor weather at the site, the Dutch salvage firm Smit began to remove 2,380 tonnes of fuel and oil from the ship.
Despite the diving operation being terminated on 31st January, information from passengers guided rescue teams to the location of 8 further bodies on 28th February including that of 5-year-old Dayana Arlotti.
On 22nd March the bodies of Americans Barbara and Gerald Heil, Christina Mathi and Norbert Josef Ganz of Germany, and Giuseppe Girolamo, an Italian were discovered in a location believed to be in the ship’s hull.
On 24th March the de-fuelling operation was completed.
It is believed that although the Concordia will be recovered to an Italian port, it is likely to be a total insurance loss and will therefore be broken up for scrap. The CEO of Costa Cruises told an American Senate committee “We believe that the wreck can no longer be put to use”.
For more information about the salvage operation, please consult our previous article.