The picture above must have flashed on your television sets more than a hundred times in last few days regardless of what channel you followed for the news update. The world was shocked and astounded to learn of the wreck of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia off the Tuscan coast. What was the most disturbing aspect was, how could a modern, state-of-the-art passenger vessel have succumbed to such a gross navigational error in well-charted waters, in clear visibility and calm conditions? Apparently the ship ran aground. In other words did not realize that there were rocks below which tore apart the hull of the ship.
The captain of the Costa Concordia, which crashed into rocks off the Italian coast and capsized, has been criticized for allegedly leaving the ship while passengers were still on board. Is a ship's captain legally required to be the last one off?
A recording of a conversation between Captain Schettino and an Italian coastguard has been made public, in which the coastguard orders him back on to the ship to count the number of women and children remaining. The captain replies that he is coordinating the evacuation from a lifeboat and after landing ashore reportedly went for shopping!
View this in contrast with Captain Edward Smith of the Titanic, who was last seen on or near the bridge of the ship as it went down.
In contrast, Captain Francesco Schettino is said to have left the Costa Concordia while many passengers were still struggling to reach safety.
I would like to add one true story in the Indian context which goes as follows:
During the 1971 Indo-Pak War, Captain M.N. Mulla was commanding INS Khukri which was assigned the task of hunting & destroying enemy submarines in the
On 9 December 1971, INS Khukri was hit by torpedoes fired by an enemy
submarine, about 64 km off the coastline
near Diu. Captain Mulla decided to abandon the ship. With great presence of mind he continued
to direct rescue operations till the ship was about to sink. He even gave his
own life-saving gear to a sailor! Having supervised many of his crew to leave
the sinking ship, he went back to the bridge. The bow of the ship was pointed upwards
as it sank slowly. His surviving shipmates recall him sitting on his chair and
hanging on to the railing smoking a cigarette. He was last seen going down with
his ship. He had indeed chosen a water grave for himself.
There are not many tales of such heroic deeds and I still vividly recall the day when the incident occurred. Little did I realize that one day I too would be a part of the same Navy!
The sight of a mighty vessel going down speaks volume of the enormity of the tragedy though the number of lives lost was relatively less! It could spell an environmental disaster besides being an eye sore on the pristine Mediterranean shores of Tuscan, till the ship breakers can remove it! There will be a number of enquiries before the actual reasons emerge for the reasons of the disaster. I leave it to the judgment of the readers to form their own opinion after having drawn some comparisons of similar tragedies!
It is said 'Rats are the first to leave a sinking ship'