Costa Concordia cruise liner capsizes – Captain held for questioning

Luxury cruise liner the Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Giglio Island, Italy, after running aground on 13 January 2012.  At the time of writing the search and rescue operation has been suspended, with 11 confirmed dead and 28 people unaccounted for.

The ship’s owner has accused the Captain of “significant human error”, taking the vessel too close to shore, not following evacuation procedures, and abandoning ship whilst the evacuation was still underway.  Furthermore there has been speculation as to why the captain took the vessel so close to shore, suggesting it was to ‘salute’ a friend onshore or provide a ‘nautical fly-by’ of the island for the entertainment of islanders and on-board guests.

These allegations are denied by the captain claiming that the rock which the ship hit was not marked on maps and that the ship was taken into shallower waters to aid in evacuation, possibly after the ship encountered electrical problems interfering with the navigation systems.

As on-going emergency procedures draw to a close, the next stage will be a full investigation into the circumstances leading to this incident. As human factors specialists and ergonomists recognise, ‘human error’ should not be an adequate cause of the incident: root causes should be identified, whether organisational arrangements, safety culture, compliance with safety critical procedures, etc. or other key human and organisational factors or process safety issues, as detailed within the UK HSE key human factors topics and the EI’s High level framework for process safety management (PSM framework).

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