Brace for New Regs in Costa Concordia’s Wake

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I am still in disbelief that a cruise ship Captain could be foolish enough to go off the planned course and hit a known, charted rock, which ripped a gash in the side of his ship.  Then to add further insult to injury, he was still ordering dinner or dessert with his lady friend while the crew was evaluating and performing damage control.

Captain: “Waiter, can we have two more martinis and a couple of Bananas Flambés?”

Waiter: “Um, Captain, I think we just hit something and the ship is starting to list severely.”

Captain: “Nonsense, and do not interrupt me while I am trying to impress my date for the evening. Also can you put some sugar packets under the table legs, as our drinks are starting to slide off?”

Unless you have been on a deserted island, then you know that I am referring to the Costa Concordia’s fatal grounding off Tuscany that I mentioned in my column last week.  The Captain took the ship off autopilot and maneuvered the vessel into dangerous waters, where it struck a rock that fatally crippled the ship.  The body count continues to rise as rescuers are searching the submerged portions of the grounded vessel.

In my professional opinion, the Captain along with his on-duty bridge officers are 100 percent liable for this avoidable tragedy, and what transpired after the grounding.  Rumors across the ocean are that after the grounding, the Captain and his top officers “fell” into a lifeboat, and hence, could not assist with the evacuation of passengers and crew off the ship.  I wonder if he cast his lady friend aside while scampering into the lifeboat giving the orders: women and children last – Captain and crew first.

Well, there happened to be an off-duty sea Captain who stepped up to the plate and began to help with the evacuation of the ship.  All the while, the Coast Guard was ordering the ship’s Captain to return to the vessel and help the remaining passengers and crew.

I mentioned in one of my recent columns that I had spent a full week at the Maritime Institute in San Diego undergoing training in safety at sea.  We conducted firefighting drills, abandon-ship drills, medical emergencies, and the duties as a ship’s officer.  This Captain gives all us dedicated Captains a black eye, but what will be much worst, and everlasting, will be the knee-jerk regulations that will be imposed on us other 99.9 percent of professional Captains.

How about the Coast Guard and legislators accept the fact that this ship’s fate was due solely to human error and stupidity, and no regulations would have made a difference.  He did not abide by the existing regulations and company policy, so please no knee-jerk reactions with more regulations.  An analogy is that murder is against the law yet people still commit murder, or running a red light is illegal, but how many people are killed or injured a year by drivers blowing through red lights?

I report again on this ill-fated ship because of not only the popularity of vacationing on cruise ships for most of us, but the response of our local Captains on the harbor cruise boats, fishing fleet, whale watching, and ferry service to Avalon.  I expect our Captains and crew to know how to safely evacuate their vessels and coordinate professionally with the rescue authorities.

Tip of the week is there is an opening for a Newport Beach harbor commissioner due to the recent resignation of Vincent Valdes.  Valdes states that he is quitting early because of work and family obligations, however, his four-year term expires in only five months, this June.

I wonder why two commissioners resigned this month?  First, Planning Commissioner Robert Hawkins resigned because he is upset with the City Council, and now Harbor Commissioner Vincent Valdes follows in Hawkins out the door.

Hawkins stated that he quit because of how the City Council treats the Planning Commission,  fast-tracking appeals and discounting the commission’s decisions.  Could Valdes feel the same about the Harbor Commission and its very light meeting agendas?  Valdes did resign in a typical politically correct manner, citing the customary work and family obligations.  Whatever the real reasons are for the two commissioners’ resignations, the City Council should reevaluate the purpose and responsibilities of all the commissions and committees, and how the Council will value the input from these volunteers from the community.

And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 am Pacific.  Join Chandler Bell, Craig Carpenter, and me as we talk about “all things boating.”  You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at or

Until next week, Safe Voyages!

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  1. “Don’t worry where the life Jackets are? Newport bay is only 12 feet deep, if we start taking on water I will beach the boat and step off? I don’t want to get my feet wet!” Quote from Prior Captain of the “Isla Mujeres” former Charter boat that lived in front of the old Cannery restaurant