The Italian Maritime Investigative Body, reporting to the ministry of infrastructure and transport, continues to examine the events of January 13 off the island of Giglio, where Costa Concordia hit the rocks and capsized with the loss of 32 passengers and crew.
In particular, as investigators explained at a presentation in London last month, they are eager to ascertain the reasons behind the critical delay between the vessel hitting the rocks and the order to abandon ship more than an hour later.
A number of other areas are also being investigated, from the recruitment of crew members and their familiarity with emergency procedures to navigation planning, ship stability issues to the power systems knocked out by the collision, general emergency management to safety equipment issues.
The technical investigators noted that their task is to identify the causes and circumstances of the accident from a strictly technical perspective, with a view to possible improvements in maritime safety.
Separate administrative and criminal investigations, run respectively by the Italian coast guard and state prosecutors, are examining the causes and possible responsibility for the disaster. With the three investigating bodies working in harmony on the case, the technical investigators said they expected to gain access to the critical analysis of the voice data recorder on July 21.
The factual timeline established thus far gives a dramatic portrait of the chaotic events of that fatal night. The investigators have ascertained that, as it approached Giglio where it was to follow ‘a tourist route’ passing half a mile from the shallows, Concordia sailed much closer to the coast than allowed for under the pre-established plan.
Despite taking evasive action to avoid the rocks of Le Scole, the ship’s stern hit the eastern rock of the group at 9:45 p.m., with the immediate loss of power from the two main electrical engines. By 10:11 p.m., the ship is starting to drift, with the bow listing to starboard and by 10:34 p.m., the ship has issued a distress call.
Costa Concordia touched bottom almost exactly an hour after the collision, but it was not until 10.55 p.m. that the order was finally given to abandon ship. The ship’s master, Francesco Schettino, left the vessel by lifeboat at 12:34 a.m. but as late as 3:44 a.m. there were still 50 people on board and the evacuation was not completed until 6:14 a.m.
The investigators also provide a breakdown of the 4,229 people on board. They comprised 3,206 passengers, including 200 children and 52 infants, and 1,023 crew from 38 countries.