Costa Concordia: UK directors to be named responsible for capsize

Jan 9, 2013
Andrea Vogt

Criminal complaint says Carnival directors 'not only tolerated but promoted' ship salute that led to tragedy

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LAWYERS representing families of passengers who died when the Costa Concordia cruise liner capsized a year ago this week are filing a criminal complaint against British and American directors of the ship's parent company, Carnival.

New evidence to be deposited in the long-running Costa Concordia case alleges that criminal responsibility for the fatal shipwreck doesn't stop with Captain Francesco Schettino, but goes all the way to the top.

British and American directors of both Carnival plc, and its American holding company, Carnival Corporation, are among those named in a criminal complaint being readied for filing in Grosseto, Italy, by a Milan law firm.

The complaint calls for Italian prosecutors to widen the number of persons being investigated in connection with the accident on 13 January 2012 that left 32 dead and more than 4,000 passengers and crew grounded on the small Italian island of Giglio.

This Sunday marks one year since the massive cruise liner capsized and grounded near the island's port, where it remains today. The epic task of righting, floating and towing away the ship is the world's largest salvage operation ever and is expected to take at least another six months.

It has already been established that the accident occurred when Captain Schettino sailed too close to Giglio to perform what is known as a "ship salute" to entertain islanders and passengers.

Carnival's directors "not only tolerated, but promoted and publicised" the risky ship salutes of Giglio and other tourist sites as a convenient, effective marketing tool, argues the complaint being filed by a Milan lawyer, who told The Week that it is ready for depositing in Grosseto. It just awaits more signatures from passengers and crew.

The lead Grosseto prosecutor completed his investigation of the disaster in late December, triggering a grace period for additional witnesses and testimony to be deposited before final charges are pressed.

The complaint being prepared in Milan will be under-signed by a number of clients represented by legal firms from outside Italy.

According to a summary reviewed by The Week, new evidence includes a report from the Port Authority of Livorno showing that "neither Costa nor Carnival ever cared about controlling or eventually preventing said practice," of ship salutes. While the complaint acknowledges that Captain Schettino mismanaged the manoeuvre causing the ship's collision, it maintains that the salutes were a regular custom that the ship's crews were encouraged to perform to make passengers happy and boost profits.

In addition, the complaint alleges crew were not familiar with ship safety features, did not speak either Italian nor English and had expired certificates. Some safety devices were installed in the wrong way and not all radars worked correctly, it alleges.

It also cites a first officer's testimony that despite being encouraged to sail close to Giglio, the ship did not have accurate nautical charts for doing so. The Costa Concordia had a 1:100,000 scale map for open seas, not the 1:20,000 scale map for coastal sailing, on which the rocks that the ship hit are marked.

"Those who decided, enacted, tolerated and promoted such business-politics, i.e. the members of the board of directors of Costa and Carnival, have to be deemed, jointly with the Captain, culpable and liable for the criminal actions which eventually caused the grounding of the Costa Concordia," reads the complaint.

Specifically, it names 14 Carnival directors. They include: Sir John Parker, chairman of Anglo American plc and vice chairman of DP World Limited; Sir Jonathon Band, former First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff; Arnold Donald, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Counsel; Debra Kelly-Ennis, former president and CEO of Diageo Canada; and Micky Arison, chief executive of Carnival. Arison is the son of Ted Arison co-founder of the Carnival Corporation, and is the owner of the NBA's Miami Heat.

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finally, the picture is widened: from the one who played the bad game to the ones who set the rules, organized it and promoted it!

How is it that lawyers for plaintiffs can file a criminal complaint? in Italy can anyone bring people up on criminal charges? In the US, criminal complaints can only be filed by the prosecutor.

Carnival will simply declare bankruptcy to avoid financial loss