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After Concordia, alarm grows in Italy about ships 'making a bow'

It may be common practice on some routes, but the propensity of cruise ships to divert from their established routes to ‘make a bow’ to people onshore is not possible in Venice, according to a joint statement released yesterday by the city’s port authority and coast guard.

‘Contrary to what has appeared in the press over recent days, Venice only permits ships to pass through its waters on specific routes that do not permit deviations,’ the statement reads. ‘They follow a kind of corridor that physically prevents them, because of the draughts of the waterways, from approaching shore.’

The statement added that ‘rigid security rules imposed by the coast guard require ships to be accompanied by two tugs, while two pilots assist the captain even before the vessel enter the mouth of Lido port and assist in manouveurs until the ship berths at the maritime station.’

Concern over the occasional practice of diverting to pass close to shore has risen since last week’s ill-fated re-routing of Costa Concordia. Though chief executive Pier Luigi Foschi insisted that Costa Crociere knew of only one other time when a company cruise ship had re-routed close to the island of Giglio, and then with the full knowledge of the local coast guard, those assurances appear increasingly threadbare.

In his testimony to investigators, the ship’s captain said he felt confident of his decision to re-route in part because he had performed similar manouveurs  several times before. Leading Genoa shipping figure Enrico Scerni noted earlier this week that it was impossible to conceive of the company not knowing this was a common occurrence, a widely expressed view in Italian shipping circles.

Scerni is the one shipping figure thus far to have lost his job over the Costa Concordia disaster, having stepped down from his position as president of Italian classification society Rina after his comments were reported in the press.

Separately, Italy’s Green party called for a ban on ships approaching the coast while en route between two ports, asking ‘how it has come to pass that violating safety regulations has become a habit for cruise ships, as much photographic evidence attests.’

It also demanded ‘zero tolerance’ for ships breaking the rules of navigation and released a series of photographs of vessels sailing close to the islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida near Naples.

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