Costa Concordia: A Carnival CSI or a CSI Carnival?

captain bill doherty– by Captain Bill Doherty, Director of Maritime Relations, Nexus Consulting

There is a feeding frenzy going on now aboard the former luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia. Divers are still searching for items to recover, yet at least seventeen persons remain unaccounted for.

The ship’s former Master Francesco Schettino remains under house arrest facing possible criminal charges for manslaughter or even more serious criminal charges.

There seems to be no criminal authority designated by the Italian government to oversee the abandoned vessel as a crime scene. In fact, from all reports, the entire disposition of the ship has been left in the hands of Carnival Cruise lines.

While normally, “clean-up” expenses and work are the responsibility of the ship’s owners and underwriters, that activity must, in the case of any pending criminal investigation, be placed on hold until the “Crime Scene” has been toughly investigated by all potential “Interested parties” including authorities from all the resident nations of foreign citizens who may have been killed or injured as a result of the alleged negligence and  indifference of the ship’s Italian Master and her senior crew members.

Leaving the salvage operation in the hands of Carnival Cruise Lines and her underwriters, prior to all forensic evidence gathering, and potential crime scene reconstruction would be considered tampering with or destroying evidence here in the United States and there were US Citizens harmed during this disaster. Every other national authority that had citizens of their country aboard during this tragedy also would be considered “Interested Parties” and allowed access to and assurance that; a proper “Crime Scene Investigation” was being openly conducted by “proper” authorities.

Allowing Carnival or any of its Agents access to or be allowed to tamper or destroy any part of this ship or bodies or items found, before all “Interested Parties” have had the opportunity, on scene and first hand, to determine that any and all potential evidence was recovered properly and accounted for, to insure it will be available and intact for any potential criminal and civil law suits is documented and protected, should not have happened.

According to the telegraph reporter Nick Squires, 11:25AM GMT 23 Jan 2012; report from Rome, authorities are searching for the cruise ship Captain’s laptop. Apparently he was seen carrying it when reporters found him at the Hotel Bahamas in Giglio, shortly before being arrested by Italian authorities.

At the time of the reporter’s interview, Captain Schettino was taken in tow by a blonde woman, who the reporters guessed was a lawyer from what she said, came into the lobby and said: “No interviews”.

“She understood the situation immediately. She took him by the arm and led him away. It all happened in about four or five seconds.” A short time later Capt Schettino was arrested on the island and taken to a police station in Orbetello on the mainland for questioning. Police records show that by that time he had only his mobile phone in his possession. ,

Italian authorities are searching for the personal computer of the Captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, amid reports that it was taken away by a mystery blonde woman in the hours after the disaster.

News reporter Nick Squires, Rome The Telegraph (7:22PM GMT 02 Feb 2012)  wrote yesterday that Items of clothing and lingerie belonging to Domnica Cemortan, a Moldovan former dancer, were found in the cabin of Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, it was reported on Thursday. Divers found the clothing, as well as a beauty case, when they searched the private cabin of Capt Francisco Schettino, 52, who faces charges of abandoning ship and manslaughter, according to La Repubblica newspaper.

The items are believed to belong to Miss Cemortan, a 25-year-old former cruise ship dancer and tourist rep who had dinner with the Captain on the evening that he accidentally steered the 950ft long luxury liner into rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

Ms. Cemortan reportedly told prosecutors in Grosseto, Tuscany, this week that she was “in love” with Capt Schettino, who is married with a teenage daughter.

She was interviewed for nearly six hours on Wednesday by prosecutors in a police station in Grosseto, Tuscany, amid reports that divers had found some of her belongings in Capt Francesco Schettino’s cabin.

Ms. Cemortan was in the first lifeboat with all her bags, passport, and documents. Now they found her nightie and panties. The only thing she may have lost on the Costa Concordia was her virginity, although there are conflicting reports as to whether Ms. Cemortan actually had that with her aboard on this final voyage of the Costa Concordia.

You have to give these salvage divers credit. There still seventeen (17) innocent souls missing aboard the Costa Concordia, but they have time to dig up this woman’s underwear.

Just WHAT are the priorities over there in Italy?

Just what Italian agency(s)  has jurisdiction over this potential “Crime Scene” if any (Agency)?

What is being done to protect not only potential evidence, but equally important, the dignity of those poor souls still remaining aboard Costa Concordia?

Nobody doubts that Captain Schettino transformed this majestic floating palace into scrap iron in a matter of seconds, however, there are still human bodies down there and there is still evidence all over the place. Italian authorities need to step up their Crime Scene Investigation, and take it out of the hands of a potential defendant Carnival Cruise Lines and her insurers.

Immediate investigation into this crime scene from either port-state control (in this case, the Italian government, who have resigned to allow its’ contracted entity RINA to handle all maritime affairs… Oh, let’s not forget RINA certified the Costa Concordia’s safety manual and mandated response program… And the President of RINA has quickly resigned) or the US government.  The US Coast Guard acted immediately when Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas cruise ship just had a US passenger jump off in Bahamas, and launched a full investigation.  Shy of all government investigations, an accredited external investigation should be conducted prior to anyone being allowed to destroy evidence under the guise of a salvage operation.

Until every single body can be accounted for, the focus must be on the recovery operation while preserving the integrity of a crime scene.  Letting Carnival scarp or salvage this Crime scene prematurely is letting “The Fox guard the Henhouse”.

nexus consultingAbout Nexus Consulting Group of Alexandria, LLC

Established in 2005, Nexus Consulting is a US veteran-owned and operated private safety and security company that places unprecedented focus on compliance while actively protecting passengers, crews, equipment and cargo from maritime threats. Internationally, Nexus Consulting is taking the lead in maritime security utilizing the Nexus Solution. Nexus also offers marine safety and security consulting services to private shipping fleets, cargo vessels and cruise lines.

Visit Nexus online at: www.ncga.us  or follow on Twitter – @nexusconsulting