Lloyd’s List, the 250-plus-year-old maritime institution, has announced the winner of its 2012 Seafarer of the Year Award: Costa Concordia’s crew.
Minus the captain, that is.
Francesco Schettino, who has been roundly condemned for his well-publicized role in the January disaster, does not share in the prestigious award. He’s accused of causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship before all passengers debarked and 32 counts of manslaughter. Eight others, including crew and Costa’s crisis coordinator, face possible charges.
“What was largely missed in the media storm that ensued [after the accident] were the genuine examples of bravery and professionalism displayed by members of the crew,” Lloyd’s List editors explained in a statement posted on the publication’s Web site.
Thirty-two died in the accident, but “without the skilled response of the majority of the crew, the loss of life could have been far higher,” the editors added. When ship met reef and capsized off the Italian island of Giglio, 4,229 passengers and crew were onboard.
Cruise Critic reached out to Lloyd’s List by e-mail for further comment. There was no response as of press time.
First-hand accounts of crew response paint a varied pictured. Passengers described panic, miscommunication, a lack of leadership. “There were a lot of people who wanted to help but there was no-one guiding them; there was nobody directing anything,” said Mario Pellegrini, the deputy mayor of Giglio, who boarded the doomed ship to assist in rescue efforts.
“[Everyone] who walked past shouted instructions, but the instructions contradicted each other,” Boston resident Benji Smith said.
“When people had to get on the lifeboats they were pushing each other — it was a bit chaotic,” said Fabio Costa, who worked in a shop onboard. “We were trying to keep passengers calm, but it was just impossible. Nobody knew what was going on.”
No doubt there were acts of incredible courage, too. James Thomas, 19, a British dancer who worked on Concordia, used his body as a “human ladder” to help get passengers off the ship.
In a 270-page analysis released September 14, experts appointed by the Italian Court accused the line and the ship’s crew of “blunders, delays and security breaches that contributed to the disaster.” Crewmembers are said to have bungled directions and not understood orders. Some crew, the experts said, were not adequately trained or certified in security and emergency drills.
Costa’s response to the report showcased some rhetorical gymnastics. The “defects in certifications of some of the crew” were not key to emergency management, it said. Defects? Yes. But they had no impact on the response. For its part, Costa has made a continued effort to focus the blame on Schetinno. It was the captain who deviated from the official computerized route taken by more than 100 Costa cruises a year; the captain who failed to alert the authorities and communicate the severity of the accident to Costa’s crisis response team. “Our own judgment is that the crew performed very well,” Costa Cruises’ then CEO Pier Luigi Foschi said days after the incident. “We were able to evacuate, in two hours time, 4,200 people under very severe circumstances, with the ship listing to a degree that did not enable us to use both sides.”
Perhaps no level of training can prepare a crew for such an event, but we’re curious: Are you surprised by the accolade? Do you feel it’s appropriate?