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TITANIC is the most easily recognisable word in the English language after ‘God’ and ‘Coca Cola’. So says Admiral John Lang, the former head of accident investigation at the Marine Accident Investigation Bureau.

Sadly, Costa Concordia is also a pretty well-known name and coming as it did shortly before the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, it has given the industry much food for thought especially around manning and training.

Voyage data recorder material suggests that there was a proliferation of helm orders that were misunderstood, perhaps because the crew were working in English .

Language has long been an issue on ships, not least in stressful situations where crew have the additional pressure of working in a language which is not their own.

Hopefully the final report of the Italian authorities will shed more light on what needs to be done.

As Admiral Lang said in his presentation at the annual Cadwallader lecture: “Too many serious accidents are never investigated at all; are looked at but never result in any recommendations being made; fail to result in a publicly available report; or where all the emphasis is placed on identifying who is to blame.

“How many can recall a single recommendation or lesson arising from the investigation into the Cypriot-registered cruise ship Romantica, after she caught fire in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1997; or after the Greek-registered Sea Diamond hit rocks off the island of Santorini in April 2007; or after the Costa Europa hit the jetty at Sharm El Sheikh in February 2010 resulting in three members of the crew being killed?”

There has already been much criticism of the fact that the criminal prosecution will take precedence over the technical investigation into the causes of the accident, although the Italians have already produced some findings for the IMO.

Let’s hope we can all learn the lessons this time around and 2013 starts on a quieter note.

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