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The Costa Concordia Sinking 100 Years After The Titanic – Have We Learned Anything!?!? A Classic Story in Crisis Management

April 20, 2012

I lecture often on the topic of Crisis Leadership and Crisis Management and I am always looking for the perfect case history to share with students and clients. The Costa Concordia was a textbook classic.

The Costs Concordia (951 foot ship) as we all know now was doing a “sail by” cruise of the island of Giglio near the coast of Tuscany when it ran into a rock…one that by the way was on the navigational charts.  Captain Francesco Schettino took the ship off of its pre-programed navigational computer system, to navigate by visual sight, in the dark.  At 9:40pm it struck a rock when the ship was a mere 1000 feet from shore. Oh my!

Tens minutes after the collision the lights on board failed.  The captain announced that there was an electrical problem but all was under control.  The next communication was one hour after the collision, when the captain gave the abandon ship order. The evacuation was chaotic.  The muster drills had not yet been done.  Staff were ill prepared and guests did not know what to do.  32 people died, 2 remain missing and are assumed dead.

He did not stay on board however to assist the passengers. He found his way onto a lifeboat and abandoned ship himself. When discovered by the Italian Coast Guard aboard a lifeboat he refused to return to the ship.

What happened to that classic naval rule, the captain goes down with the ship?  There are modern Merchant Marine laws in the United States and many  other countries in regards to passenger ships.  These laws requires the captain to render assistance to every single person trying to get off that ship, and also identify those people who may have been killed in the incident. In this accident, the captain was nowhere to be found.

An excellent NOVA program has just been released that explores the question, Why Ships Sink.  The program describes the physical mechanics of modern cruise ships and the crisis management aspects of managing an emergency aboard a ship.  Be aware however, you might not want to go sailing for a while after watching this!


Over the next week, we will peel back some of the crisis management lessons learned.

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