IMO to meet this month to consider recommendations from inquiry into Italian disaster
The long-awaited official Italian report on the investigation into the Costa Concordia disaster last year has concluded that ‘the human element is the root cause’. But the 173-page report also highlights a series of technical and design shortcomings that resulted in ‘immediate and irreversible flooding of the ship beyond any manageable level’ — suffering a blackout and losing propulsion within 50 seconds, and flooding up to the bulkhead deck within 40 minutes.
The findings are to be considered this month at the International Maritime Organisation’s maritime safety committee, along with a set of recommendations tabled by the Italian government in response to the investigation. Nautilus is warning that while the report contains some useful material, the recommendations fall short of the radical measures required.
The report states that the master’s ‘unconventional behaviour’ was the main cause of the incident and it also blames the bridge team for failing to pay attention to the ship’s position, to challenge the master’s decisions or to warn him of the looming danger. And it says the company’s designated person ashore failed to respond to warnings about the seriousness of the situation by ordering the master to speed up the evacuation of the ship.
It criticises the decision to take the Costa Concordia ‘excessively close’ to the Italian coast and to maintain a high speed — 15.5 knots — in the unsuitable conditions, using ‘totally inadequate’ charts of 1/100,000 scale rather than 1/50,000.
In what the report describes as ‘a unique event’, the ship suffered immediate flooding of five contiguous watertight compartments as a result of the 53m gash in the hull. It describes how this led to the rapid loss of power and key services as compartments containing vital equipment filled with water and emergency pumps failed to cope with the large volumes.
Investigators also criticised the onboard emergency management, pointing to communication problems amongst the crew, and between them and passengers, — arguing that these were attributable to the different backgrounds and training of seafarers recruited by agencies around the world.
In an associated paper tabled at the IMO, Italy is proposing a series of measures in response to the accident — including revisions to the SOLAS Convention to ensure the segregation and redundancy of vital equipment for propulsion, steering and navigation following flooding, with possible double-hull protection for watertight compartments containing such equipment and relocation of main switchboard rooms above the bulkhead deck.
Italy also wants tighter rules on bilge pumps along the length of ships and measures to limit the downflooding points on bulkhead decks, along with onboard stability computers and flooding detection systems. The paper also calls for improvements in bridge management and muster lists, together with a review of the principles of safe manning as they apply to large passengerships.
Nautilus International Telegraph – June 2013