A captain stripped of his ship, Francesco Schettino has been in a cell since Saturday, the 52-year-old portrayed as a maverick by critics — as the man who sank the Concordia. Damning reviews of his performance have been surging in.
On Friday, at around 9.00pm, the cruiser sailed in close to the island of Giglio, home port of the ship’s head waiter. Some sources say that as a favour to him Schettino ordered the vessel to approach the shore to salute the 800 islanders.
The fateful passage was interrupted at around 9.40pm. A rock got in the way – a rock under water that was not on charts, the captain said.
His employer, Costa Cruises, poured cold water on this, directly contradicting him.
“I can confirm to you that this rock does appear on maps,” senior German manager Heiko Jensen said.
“The captain made an independent decision to change the course specified by Costa. The ship was obviously too close to the shore, and the captain’s assessment of the emergency did not correspond with Costa standards.”
This was a reference to the length of time it took Schettino to declare an emergency: he waited until an hour after the collision. The port authority said he first brushed it off as some sort of electrical problem.
It was chaos on the listing ship.
There has been speculation from various media that Concordia officers were so frustrated at the delay that they began the evacuation before receiving the order to abandon ship and launch the life boats.
There were well over 4,000 people to save.
Witnesses place the captain on dry land at 11:40, which was six hours before the bulk of the cruise customers were rescued.
The port authority urged Schettino to reboard the vessel by rope ladder, to coordinate operations, at a 1.45am, but he would not.
At some point, passengers died.
The charges against Schettino carry a possible 12-year prison sentence for leaving his ship prematurely, and 15 years for involuntary manslaughter.
Critics said Schettino was a show-off with little consideration for others, for instance giving orders to sail from Marseilles in November, in spite of a raging storm.