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Yesterday evening I finally watched the Channel 4 programme about the Costa Concordia sinking from a week ago. It was gripping viewing, especially for someone like myself who has been on cruises and who could therefore relate to what I was seeing. I’d seen some of the clips before, in the previous Channel 4 programme, but other clips, especially those taken by the Italian and French families, were new.

I don’t think I want to go through the programme in detail – there wasn’t really any new information in it – but I will mention a few scenes that were especially memorable:

  • The scenes that showed difficulties and confusion in actually launching the lifeboats;
  • The reaction of the rescue helicopter team when they first saw Costa Concordia lying almost on her side;
  • The shots of those thousands of people milling around the Port of Giglio after the evacuation.

Based on the various ‘video veritĂ©’ clips I’ve seen I’ve drawn some general conclusions from the sinking:

  • The number of crew members with seamanship skills is a small percentage of the total crew numbers on a ship like this, and an event like this can overwhelm them;
  • Boat launching and handling drills in daylight and calm water, while doubtless better than no practice at all, don’t prepare the crew for the reality of a full evacuation from a sinking ship;
  • Lifeboat launching is very dependent on the attitude of the ship;
  • Getting accurate messages to a multi-national, multi-lingual set of passengers is a challenge;
  • The success of the evacuation will depend on external factors, e.g. how close the ship is to land, the weather at the time, and how much external assistance is available.

Finally, we should remember that for all the confusion and shouting that was shown on the videos, this was a very successful evacuation. That’s probably the scariest thought of all: if she’d been further from land, or the weather had been worse, the death toll would have been much, much worse.

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