The captain of the Carnival Corp.’s Costa Concordia cruise ship that capsized off the Italian coast on Jan. 13 told company officials he needed to abandon the vessel two minutes after saying the situation was under control, Costa Crociere SpA Chairman Pier Luigi Foschi said.
Captain Francesco Schettino first called Roberto Ferrarini, head of Costa Crociere’s marine operations department, at 9:57 p.m., about 15 minutes after the accident, to report that the Concordia had hit rocks that ripped a hole in its side, Foschi told Italian senators in a hearing today. While Schettino told Ferrarini at 10:32 p.m. that the situation was “under control,” he advised two minutes later that he was going to order an evacuation, Foschi said.
Schettino, under house arrest, is accused of causing the wreck and abandoning the ship. He allegedly deviated from the planned route to navigate closer to the island as a “salute,” hours after the vessel left a port near Rome for a Mediterranean cruise carrying about 4,200 passengers and crew, court documents show.
The evacuation order was only given an hour after the accident, hampering operations as the ship was already listed. At least 16 people died and 22 are missing, Italy’s Civil Protection Agency said. Six victims haven’t been identified yet.
Bruno Leporatti, Schettino’s lawyer, has said the captain didn’t abandon the ship and wrote in a Jan. 16 statement that his actions saved many lives. Schettino said he made an emergency maneuver after hitting the rocks to prevent the vessel from heading out to sea and sinking, according to the judge’s written decision.
The captain has also told investigators the company asked him to navigate close to Giglio to salute the island, newspapers including la Repubblica have said. Costa Crociere told Bloomberg News in a Jan. 22 e-mail that while a “touristic navigation” five miles from the coast was planned for the Concordia, it was up to the captain to ensure the safety of the route. The salute wasn’t authorized, Foschi reiterated today.
He also said the Concordia crew “exclusively” evacuated in difficult conditions about 4,000 passengers before external rescuers arrived.