Cause of Italian cruise ship crash was 'human error'

The Costa Crociere chairman says the Costa Concordia made an unauthorised, unapproved deviation from the ship's programmed course as a sixth body is found before rescue mission is called off for bad weather.

The rescue operation has been called off for now, as weather off the Italian coast worsens.
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ROME // The captain of the cruise ship that capsized off the Tuscan coast made an unauthorised, unapproved deviation from the ship's programmed course, a "human error" that led to the grounding of the vessel, the chief executive of the ship's Italian owner said today.

The comments from Pier Luigi Foschi, the Costa Crociere chairman and chief executive, raised pressure on the captain, who already is under investigation by authorities for suspected manslaughter and as well as allegations he abandoned ship before the passengers were safe, violating the Italian navigation code. At least six people died in the incident.

The Costa Concordia ran into a reef on Friday night and capsized into the port area of Giglio, sparking a frantic evacuation of the 4,200 people on-board. Coastguard officials have expressed concern that the ship might slip off the rocks where it is currently perched.

Today, the rescue operation was called off as weather worsened and a sixth body was found. Mr Foschi said it was not because the ship had shifted but divers heard "sounds" coming from inside and did not know what was causing them.

Carnival Corp, the owner of the liner, said the initial cost of the disaster was US$85-95 million (Dh312-350m).

The company said its priority was the "safety of our passengers and crew" and expressed condolences to the families of those who had died.

"A damage assessment review of the vessel is currently being undertaken ... The vessel is expected to be out of service for the remainder of our current fiscal year if not longer," it said in a statement.

"For the fiscal year ending November 30, the impact ... for loss of use is expected to be approximately $85-$95 million."

Mr Foschi said the company stood by the captain, Francesco Schettino, and would provide him with legal assistance. But he said that the company disassociated itself from his behaviour.

Costa ships have their routes programmed, and alarms go off when they deviate, the chief executive said in a press conference.

"This route was put in correctly. The fact that it left from this course is due solely to a manoeuvre by the commander that was unapproved, unauthorised and unknown to Costa," he said.

Capt Schettino has insisted he did not leave the liner early, telling Mediaset television that he had done everything he could to save lives.

"We were the last ones to leave the ship," he said.

Mr Foschi said the liner had passed all safety and technical tests in its 2011 evaluation. He added that the company's main concern was the safety and well-being of the passengers and crew, as well as to ensure fuel does not leak out from the upended hull into the pristine waters off the island of Giglio.

There were 500,000 gallons of fuel on board, in 17 separate tanks, Mr Foschi said.

"There are no signs of pollution" to date, but officials are on high alert in case the ship suddenly shifts due to worsening weather conditions. Sensors have been put in place to track the movements of the ship.

Questions have been swirling about why the ship had navigated so close to the dangerous reefs and rocks that jut off Giglio's eastern coast, amid suspicions the captain may have ventured too close while carrying out a manoeuvre to entertain tourists on the island.

Residents of Giglio said they had never seen a cruise liner come so close to the dangerous Le Scole reef.