A cruise ship disaster, from the perspective of a crew member
The Costa Concordia shipwreck is indisputably a tragic event, and something as a crew member I hope to never experience firsthand. However, every time I hear comparisons of this event to the RMS Titanic disaster, I cringe. However since the mainstream media is intent on portraying this as a modern-day Titanic, let's compare the two.
- Soundtrack of the report
- The Sinking
- Titanic Soundtrack
I have an issue with how the media has quoted some passengers as saying that crew members were "incompetent". In a world which feeds on a 24/7 news cycle, it seems like there is no longer any time to verify facts. Bear in mind that the crew evacuated over 4000 people safely, in the dark in under 2 hours. That's actually quite a remarkable feat. This is not to say that this incident is without human fault, however. Anyway there seems to be much misinformation and sensationalism over this story, so allow me to provide you with some insight from a "behind the curtain" perspective.
Firstly, it's law to have a passenger safety briefing within 24 hours of embarkation for all passengers. On the Concordia, this was scheduled for the second day of the cruise rather than pre-departure, which was clearly a poor decision. The purpose of this safety briefing is to inform passengers of their individual Muster station to assemble at in the event of an emergency. This is not about the location of the life boats but rather the meeting point where your Muster station leader, a trained crew member, will give further instructions on when and where to evacuate to. I can imagine the frustration and chaos for passengers if they had no practice beforehand.
Secondly, the coast guard should have been informed immediately at the first sign of trouble, not just when the evacuation had begun. Thirdly (according to the media), the ship had purposely veered off the designated route to give a better view of the coast. We will see in coming days whether this last factor is true or not.
End of the day, crew members have a job to do. But like we always say, safety is everybody's business. In any tragic event, it's no longer about the "guest experience", we need to rely on each other as human beings to help bring everyone to safety. Clearly, the coast guard, the people of Isola del Giglio and the majority of passengers and crew worked together towards this end. If not, this event would have ended much worse. Any loss of life is always unfortunate. But for the people who were saved and then turned around to complain, that's plain shameful.
One final note. You have heard the media reports and you have heard the passenger testimonials, so now let's hear from the perspective of a crew member who was onboard the Costa:
"I wish I could respond to the flood of nonsense and lies that have been said! But for now, until I can say more I can only say this: We evacuated 4000 people in the dark, with the ship inclined on its side, in less than two hours! Those who are "incompetent" are not able to do this. It is not true that the captain was first to leave the ship. I was on the last boat and he remained attached to the railing of deck 3, while the ship was sinking. I was on the lifeboat, that was sailing away and about to be crushed by the hoist of the sinking ship, which was about to break through our roof. We pulled a lot of guests into the lifeboat who had ended up in the sea, and as we undressed a girl in wet clothes to cover her with a blanket, a guest filmed us with his phone! We executed a rescue operation at sea, and as we pulled another gentleman out of the water, me with a rope tied around my wrist for more strength to pull him up, another man was taking pictures! We had to manage a flock of sheep in jeopardy and then are told that we were incompetent?!
While I was inclined to release people who were pushing and screaming, one by one into the boat, a large man who was obviously a passenger smoked a cigarette. When I asked "What the fuck are you doing smoking a cigarette in this state, in the dark, with fuel that could come out of the boat?!" and his response was "I need it for stress." We worked for the guests, to save them, to take them to safety, if they are saved, it is only thanks to us alone, all the crew, who did everything. We do not want to be thanked, NO, we have only done our duty, but we do not want to hear all the nonsense, lies, and more lies, just to give you the "scoop" of these so called broadcasts. 4000 PEOPLE IN TWO HOURS, IN THE DARK ... with the ship tilted, we took them WE, THE STAFF OF CONCORDIA TO SHORE. They did not go themselves in buckets and shovels themselves to the shore! We brought them!!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the residents of Isola del Giglio, the mayor, who came on board, to verify the situation, (not knowing who he was because he did not have a life jacket!) Thank you with all my heart all, all the islanders who worked for all of us, with maximum availability, giving us their colorful blankets, some even knitted of crochet, looking for cell phone chargers, and so much more. Thanks to all of them."
-- Katia Keyvanian, Guest Services Manager who was onboard the Concordia.
Roy has worked on cruise ships for the past 2 years and has participated in over 100 lifeboat drills. You can follow his travels on roymarvelous.com and @roymarvelous.
: UPDATE: I should emphasize that the quote is from an unverified source. Why would I then include such a controversial paragraph? Well, if it was good enough for BBC to partially publish, then why not include the entire text here? Clearly Katia was inaccurate when saying that the captain stayed behind after the last lifeboat left. So how did she get it so wrong? Probably the same way some passengers got it wrong, claiming that the captain had left on the first lifeboat. Memory recall from traumatic events is often inaccurate. People will have different perceptions of reality. Perhaps Katia was too busy saving lives to realize there were still more useable lifeboats or perhaps the captain got on one of the returning lifeboats. Or maybe she flat out lied because she was the captain's secret lover. The Captain had a duty of care to be among the last onboard, in order to perform evacuation duties as per the 1974 Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention. It's also a matter of honor that the master is the last to leave the vessel. Either way its an irrelevant distraction and not the point of the article; it never was about the captain. It is about the crew. (Now, if you have ever worked in the service industry, you can relate to how unappreciative people can be.) The passenger accounts and media reports depict the crew as a bunch of bumbling incompetents. But if that were really true, this tragedy would have resulted in a death toll much closer to what was experienced onboard the Titanic.