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Costa Concordia Captain Becomes Hate Figure

Posted on the 23 January 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost

Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster: Captain becomes hate figure after allegedly abandoning ship

Costa Concordia

Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino has come in for a media drubbing since the cruise ship disaster that has claimed 13 lives so far. Schettino faces charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship, after apparently steering the ship too close to the Italian island of Giglio in order to perform a salute to inhabitants.

Hate groups have sprung up on Facebook, according to The Daily Mail, with anger fueled by recordings of a furious Italian coastguard ordering Schettino to return to the stricken ship. The captain’s cause has not been helped by  his own claims that he fell into a lifeboat rather than abandoning ship, reported The Telegraph.

So why is there such anger against Schettino? And is the captain really solely to blame?

Fall from grace. “At least Captain Smith of the Titanic elected to go down with his ship. Had he not done so, he would certainly have faced the sort of opprobrium that is now being meted out to Captain Schettino,” wrote Craig Brown in The Daily Mail. Brown pointed out that Schettino’s fall from grace has been nothing short of spectacular: “One moment this 52-year-old man was swaggering around in his gold braid, smoothly welcoming the creme de la creme of passengers on the Costa Concordia to his captain’s table. The next moment, he was universally known as Captain Coward, the most hated man in Italy and quite possibly the world.”

New allegations have emerged that the true number of passengers and crew on the cruise ship is unknown. Franco Gabrielli, head of the Civil Protection Authority, told reporters that there may have been unregistered passengers aboard when the Costa Concordia hit rocks off the island of Giglio: “There could have been X persons who we don’t know about who were inside, who were ‘clandestine’ passengers aboard the ship,” said Gabrielli, reported The New York Times.

No heart. Tony Parsons slammed the Concordia captain as heartless in The Mirror: “All the evidence suggests [Schettino] rammed a rock and then saved his own skin, and bugger the women and children.” Like many commentators, Parsons compared Schettino to captain of the Titanic Edward Smith: “Whatever horribly human mistakes he made, the sins of vanity, arrogance and stupidity that we are all capable of, Smith was redeemed by his death.”

Costa Cruises chief executive, Pier Luigi Foschi, told an Italian newspaper that Captain Francesco Schettino had “character problems”: “He [Schettino] may have the odd little character problem, although nothing has ever been reported formally. He was seen as being a little hard on his colleagues. He liked to be in the limelight,” said Foschi, reported The Independent.

Panic paralysis. The captain was clearly overcome with panic when the ship hit the rocks, Robert Winston wrote in The Telegraph, and this may well have caused him to freeze: “Paralysis can easily affect any of us at the moment of crisis. Is this what happened to Schettino?” According to Winston, the reaction of the Italian coastguard would only have made matters worse: “Shouting orders at a panicking man, who is shivering with his physiological reaction, is not conducive to a rational response.”

The wreckage of the Costa Concordia has become a tourist attraction, according to The Sun: “Day-trippers perched on rocks to have their photos taken with the wreck in the background just a short distance from where coastguards and Italian navy dive teams are continuing their hunt for the missing passengers and crew.”

Captain blames cruise ship owners. Leaked transcripts of Schettino’s questioning by Italian prosecutors show the captain blamed cruise ship operators Costa for the ordering him to perform the salute that led to the tragedy, reported Antonella Cinelli for Reuters: “Schettino told magistrates Costa had insisted on the maneuver to please passengers and attract publicity.” According to Cinelli, Schettino claimed Costa had told him: “We do tourist navigation, we have to be seen, get publicity and greet the island.” The Telegraph reported that Schettino’s sister has sprung to his defence, insisting her brother was the victim of “mud-slinging” and that he would clear his name.

Cruise ship industry buoyant. The Guardian’s Esther Addley interviewed passengers on super cruise ship the Independence of the Seas and found the Concordia tragedy had not dented enthusiasm for cruising or raised safety fears: “I could have driven here and passed about four or five crashes on the road,” passenger Bert Collins told the paper. According to Addley, cruise ship regulars like the convenience of cruising: “For those who like to visit five countries but unpack only once, the Independence can offer a selection of amenities that one might not immediately want to undertake on the rolling ocean, including a climbing wall, an ice rink, a nine-hole mini golf course and a decktop surf simulator pool.”

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