Pre-trial Costa Concordia Hearing Begins In Italy

The pre-trial hearing on the grounding of Costa Concordia, in which 32 people died, was held today in Grossetto, Italy.

Costa Concordia’s master, Francesco Schettino, was present for the preliminary hearing which heard testimonies and reviewed data from the vessel’s black box.

Held away from the public and presided over by Valeria Montesarchio, the judge who oversaw the preliminary investigations, the hearing could see Capt Schettino stand trial next year for manslaughter and for abandoning the vessel before having evacuated the 4,220 passengers and crew.

Capt Schettino’s second in command, Ciro Ambrosio, officer Salvatore Ursino and Costa Cruises fleet crisis co-ordinator Robert Ferrarini are also being investigated and were present at the hearing.

A report based on the findings from the black box data on board Costa Concordia was leaked to the Italian press a month ago. This revealed “an almost complete omission of the entire sequence of [emergency] messages that should have been expected”.

The pre-trial report, written by a panel of nine experts and led by an Italian admiral, is 1,000 pages long and includes seven DVDs of evidence gleaned from the voyage data recorders.
The report placed a predominant amount of blame on Capt Schettino, highlighting the master’s decision to delay evacuating the vessel until 2251 hrs, even though Costa Concordia had hit the rocks at 2145 hrs. It also stated that the route chosen was far too close to shore.

According to the report, the crew was not sufficiently aware of emergency procedures and certain members were assigned emergency duties for which they were not sufficiently trained. It also said that the crew had difficulty understanding emergency instructions.

* Final salvage operations for the removal of the Costa Concordia wreck also begin this week.

The largest salvage operation of its kind, it is led by Titan Salvage and Italian firm Micoperi and will involve 450 workers and 100 divers.

Although it would have been easier to cut up the vessel to remove it, this was ruled out due to the environmental risks it posed. To date, no environmental damage due to the casualty has been reported in the area.

The chosen salvage operation involves pulling the liner off the rocks and towing it away in one piece, in a process that is likely to take 260 days.

The ship will be secured using anchors fixed to the rocks and seabed. Cables passed underneath the wreck will attach steel cages to its sides. The lifting operation should not take longer than a day.

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