BreakPoint Blog

Disaster at Sea

The pictures
are shocking: people with life vests disembarking a sinking vessel. Despite our advanced technological wizardry, the cruise ship Costa Concordia sank, mostly, off the Italian coast. They're calling it human error. Eleven people have been confirmed dead, and another 21 are still missing.

There is a character lesson to learn regarding the actions of the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, and the chief purser, Manrico Gianpetroni.

Francesco Schettino left his post for dry land, claiming he fell into a lifeboat. Even if we concede that this might have happened, refusing to go back and fulfill his duty as captain is cowardice. Schettino is under house arrest and faces charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship. Reports from crew say that Schettino was arrogant.

Manrico Gianpetroni stayed aboard ship to fulfill his duties as chief purser. He helped dozens of people escape before breaking a leg and being stuck below decks. In a hospital interview, Gianpetroni acknowledges that it was his job to stay on board to help passengers leave. And thankfully, many people came to help those aboard the stricken vessel.

Let's use Gianpetroni's story as a lesson to teach our children character -- and Scettino's to teach them what not to do.


Perhaps so, Ellen. In any case the question of justice vs mercy was already settled for us.

The thing is, this is not a case of calling evil good like that "surrogate" thread. This is a case of everyone calling someone else's evil "evil".

This, forum if you remember is part of a foundation dedicated to helping sinners who have ruined their own lifes. It is incongruous for us to be to eager to contribute to someone else's ruination.

P.S. Maybe publican would fit better then harlot for the analogy. In any case the point is made.
Perhaps we are horrified by such lack of valor because we each know that we are capable of failing our fellow man. Schettino et. al. are the personification of our own worst fears.

It appears that Schettino was in the habit of making bad choices. Reportedly, this wasn't the first time he steered the ship off course close to the island. When the ship struck the rocks, he did not act to ascertain the integrity of the vessel, then he did not act quickly to ensure the safety of the passengers, and finally, he was discovered off of the ship refusing to re-board before the evacuation was complete.

If the habit of making poor choices leads to more poor choices, then let us hope that the inverse is also true.
"Schettino and his officers aren't comparable to a starving street hooker. They had excellent societal standing and access to all the riches Italy has to offer."

They are now.
Ellen, saying that is hubristic. I don't know, you don't know, and nobody else knows what they would do. We only know our intentions.

In fact it seems likely that you will behave as you said if only because such an extreme is in fact quite rare. But you don't KNOW.
It's my understanding that the first and second mates with in the lifeboat with the captain. I guess they all tripped together. As well, there are reports that men shoved women and children aside in their haste to board lifeboats. Schettino and his officers demonstrated a gross dereliction of duty, which left a dearth of leadership for the male crew members and passengers on board, which led to these reports of mayhem. I agree with Steyn that this incident demonstrates the fragility of civilization - so difficult to build up and so easily broken down.

Schettino and his officers aren't comparable to a starving street hooker. They had excellent societal standing and access to all the riches Italy has to offer.

At least the news isn't all wretched. The Coast Guard captain was appalled by Schettino, an off duty captain led the on-board rescue effort, and many of the crew members must have manned their posts and directed disembarkation to be able to get so many passengers off in two hours.

I'll think I'll be sticking to my First Mate post aboard our four person sailing vessel. You can damn well be sure that I won't be abandoning ship before the passengers and captain are all safe.
How can someone get that much responsibility without the morals to go with it? Easier then you think, Lee.

That was a hardened warrior, NOT a cruise ship captain and he lived in a day when casual cruelty was taken for granted and not sanitized or hidden like today, but in which cowardice was considered the ultimate vice. He will always be remembered for that one moment and in a sense deservedly. But no one including he had any idea that he could not measure up when it really counted.

Now that cruise ship captain was not chosen as a warrior, an explorer, or an old time Captain Ahab type of sailor. He was chosen to be a floating hotel major-domo in seas that had been safe for two generations or more on a ship so big that it could go through the Grand Banks and laugh at the ocean. How many cruise ships can anyone remember sunk by natural causes besides the Titanic? A few perhaps. And of course the possibility must be taken into account. But ultimately the captain was probably chosen to provide luxuries.

As for whether it is a trend, who knows. Perhaps all those vulgar "get back on board" T-shirts will check that trend(few are as good at shaming as Italians). But in the meantime I have no intention to join.

I realize the ambiguity of my position. Cowardice is a vice no culture can afford to tolerate unless survival is not a serious consideration. At the same time, I simply do not feel like taking part in the pillorying. If for no other reason then that it feels undignified to me personally.
Oh, come come, dear old chap - this captain is not Fantine of Les Miserables. And Kim is really asking how someone could get so much responsibility without having the morals to serve that responsibility. Is this captain truly an isolated case, or is this possibly the first of a trend? That's the issue - not dumping on this scoundrel.
Putting on my chaos theory cap ("the flapping of a butterfly's wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas"), I'd say it's a bad year to be working in the cruise industry - with the image of the wreck on every news site, and firmly fixed in everyone's mind. (People are not purely rational thinkers.)

It's also a bad year to be living in a country that depends on cruise tourism dollars.
I am not giving the captain a bit of credit and cowardice is not a "simple case". I am simply pointing out that dumping on him at the moment feels rather like dumping on a starving street hooker for her lack of chastity.

I think you give the good Captain a little more credit than he deserves. This wasn't just a simple case of cowardliness.

1. He veered off course at least two times;
2. He waited some time before sounding the alarm.

Sure, C. Schettino has probably done some really wonderful things during his lifetime--we all do. However, his actions are contemptible because they cost trusting customers their lives. It also cost his company millions of dollars in damages and forthcoming lawsuits.

Can he be forgiven? Of course. However, this is a good lesson in consequences following bad actions. Schettino must take responsibility for his actions.
I read that one. I am also familiar with the "Birkenhead Drill".

The fact is, though shame has always been the traditional punishment for cowardice, I really don't feel like joining a feeding frenzy. It is so easy to be remembered for one thing all your life no matter what else you have done.

Moreover, that man's family will assuredly suffer and they at least are not guilty.
The inimitable (and regrettably, often ribald) Mark Steyn addresses this issue in a Jason-compatible manner, by going all the way to Kipling and back:
Poor guy will pay for that for the rest of his life. No particular reason to add to it.
Ellen, Thanks for the information!

Captain Bosio was not working on the Costa Concordia but had boarded the ship to get to his home town of Savona, near Genoa.

He is understood to have coordinated the entire rescue effort, working alongside crew members throughout the night, helping women and children into lifeboats.

He is the captain of one of the Concordia’s sister ships, the Serena.

“Don’t call me a hero. I just did my duty, the duty of a sea captain – actually the duty of a normal man.

“I and the others with me just did our duty. We looked each other in the eyes for a second and then we Just got on with it.” -Captain Bosio