Report: Open Doors and ‘Faulty Instruments’ May Have Contributed to Concordia Disaster

July 4, 2012

Update 07/05/2012 -- The captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, has been released from house arrest by Italian judges. Though he may now leave his house, he may not leave his home town while the case against him continues. Additionally, his communication is no longer restricted and he may speak with people other than his close family and lawyer.

(11:30 a.m. EDT) -- Watertight doors designed to prevent flooding were left open onboard Costa Concordia, according to leaks from a pre-trial hearing in the ongoing investigation into the ship's sinking.

Faulty instruments, unapproved maps and a broken ‘black box' recorder -- which could have provided valuable data about events leading up to the disaster -- were also cited in the report published by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Tuesday.

Corriere della Sera also published e-mails showing the ship had been due in for repairs on its technical instruments on January 14 -- the day after the accident that claimed at least 30 lives.

One e-mail quoted Costa's technical director Pierfrancesco Ferro telling a repair firm: "The VDR (Voyage Data Recorder) has broken down for the umpteenth time... The situation is becoming unbearable."

Owner Costa Cruises admitted there was report of a fault with the VDR but that it was working on the night that the ship hit a rocky reef and sank off the island of Giglio.

In its statement, Costa did not deny that watertight doors onboard were left open, but refuted the assertion that this was due to electronic malfunctions.

An officer onboard who was questioned by investigators reportedly said the reason for the watertight doors being left open was that "this was a practice used during the navigation to ease the flow of people who were at work."

In the statement, Costa also sought to distance itself from allegations regarding unapproved nautical charts, blaming the ship's master for the unapproved maps.

The Concordia accident occurred after Captain Francesco Schettino deviated from the ship's approved route to "salute" the island's residents. Schettino -- who faces a number of allegations, including manslaughter, abandoning ship, causing a shipwreck and failing to report the accident to the coast guard -- has been under house arrest outside Naples since being taken into custody following the incident.

A court hearing is due to take place on July 21 at which the full results of technical analysis of evidence relating to the ship and the accident will be heard.

Separately, Costa announced on Tuesday that it had awarded a contract to Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri to build the watertight boxes, known as caissons, which will be used to refloat the ship.

In total, 30 of the boxes will be built and fitted to the hull as part of a salvage operation being led by two salvage companies, Titan Salvage, an American firm, and Italian-based Micoperi, who split a bid on the operation that is expected to cost more that $300 million and take nearly a year.

Initial preparations to refloat Concordia, which lies mostly submerged on its starboard side on a rocky reef off the Italian island of Giglio, began in June.

--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Content Editor

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