NOBODY in the shipping industry wants to be reporting on a tragedy like that which overtook the Costa Concordia on Friday the 13th and it is sad irony that only two days previously a Maritime London seminar on the salvage issues relating to large containerships warned that shipping would sooner or later face its Deepwater Horizon moment.
As Andrew Chamberlain of Holman Fenwick Willan pointed out most of the container ships involved in big incidents – Rena and Napoli are but two – were very much smaller than the new generation box ships. Are we now building ships too big for the industry’s casualty capability? The same question was asked at a P&I seminar in Greece at the end of January.
All the coverage aside, it is interesting to note that for those of us who deal in shipping issues on a daily basis, the tragedy provided a rare moment when those outside the industry remembered that it existed at all.
All of us have had to field questions from friends and have been asked why, what, how and told "surely…" Of course, the answers will have to wait for the investigation to be completed, but the extent of coverage on the internet, complete with AIS plots and specialist commentary has been revealing.
What have they been saying? Why was Costa so quick off the mark to wash its hands of the vessel’s master? Surely we knew that one day we’d have to launch lifeboats from a heavily listing ship…? Did design faults contributed to the situation? Why were salvors not engaged sooner in the process? …and why did the ship list in the direction she did? The answers aside, it is a relief to know that the ship’s proximity to the shore must have contributed to saving the lives of many passengers. Heaven forbid the outcome if she’d been further out to sea.
Of course, Costa's compliance with the ISM Code is bound to come under the spotlight in the months to come. Hopefully, we will learn from the Costa Concordia as we did from the Titanic 100 years ago.