The Concordia Disaster Raises Many Legal Questions

The recent shipwreck of the Italian cruise liner Concordia presents many legal challenges that will certainly be closely examined in the days and weeks to come.  For one, there is the issue of the Italian captain leaving the ship instead of staying to help with the rescue effort.  Although it is at this time unclear exactly what the legal consequences of his abandoning the ship will be, this is an issue that everyone following this tragedy will get to learn more about.  Maritime law is not something most in the legal community, much less the general public, are familiar with and this incident should certainly enlighten all of us on this issue.

In addition to the possible charges of manslaughter to be levied against the captain, there are numerous environmental concerns that this tragedy raises.  There are thousands of gallons of fuel oil as well as other dangerous substances on board the ship that risk leaking into the surrounding waters.  Any major leak of fluids from the ship could spark a major environmental disaster, with lawsuits against the company who owns the cruise line as well as the captain certain to follow.  Stock in Carnival Cruise Lines, the parent company of the company that owns Concordia, has already taken a hit.  The disaster is also bound to adversely affect a tourism industry already hurt by the struggling economy.

When any major incident like this one occurs, numerous legal issues abound.  While the loss of life involved in such an incident is tragic, occurrences such as this one can be learned from.  The laws regarding navigation of large vessels and the duties of a captain should be reexamined so that a disaster like this one never happens again.  If any of the fuel begins to leak, an environmental disaster could result.  The bottom line is that this incident should serve as a learning experience for the legal community so that we can do our part to make certain that an event like this never happens again.

For more on this issue go to:

http://news.yahoo.com/ship-search-finds-12th-body-captains-documents-212556096.html;_ylt=Ahw8MC8cN216Psp.9FSQrg.s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNhcDlqYm44BG1pdAMEcGtnA2UwMjJjNDMzLTFmZmEtMzBlMS04MTdlLWI4OTU4ZTcyYWNkMgRwb3MDNQRzZWMDbG5fQVBfZ2FsBHZlcgM3Njk5OGJiMC00NDhjLTExZTEtYmFmNC1mNDVjZDNhZWI2Yzg-;_ylv=3

5 comments

  1. As Louis points out, it should be very interesting to see how the legal aftermath unfolds following this tragedy at sea. While it is certainly unsettling to hear the rumors of the captain’s rationale behind navigating the cruise liner so dangerously close to the coastline, I also feel as though this is an extreme case of poor judgment and poor choice. Although other sea captains will surely take notice of this incident, any punishment imposed upon the captain here will likely be isolated in nature. I cannot see how a real deterrent effect will end up capturing the rest of the sea-faring community from any sanctions cast against the captain in this case. The reports and criticism of his abilities at sea, by the photograph alone, are clearly unfavorable, and this turn of events has not impressed anyone, although a “good impression” was the captain’s aim all along. As to the environmental concerns, nearly half of a million gallons of fuel are said to still be contained on the ship, not including any other fluids, oils, detergents, etc. that are required on a cruise liner. While Coast Guard officials state that any leakage has been “light” and “superficial” at most, the communities situated near this site are still not completely out of danger from further environmental damage.

  2. I think that the captain should suffer severe consequences for abandoning his ship. I think that behavior is completely unacceptable and I wonder how the law will handle this situation. I do not know anything about maritime law, but I have to assume that the captain has a duty to those on his ship. I am not sure what exactly the captain’s duty to his passengers and crew are, but I am pretty sure that abandoning the ship is not a part of protocol. When people go on a ship they want to know that they will be taken care of, and that it is not just “every man for themselves”.

    In addition, only time will tell what sort of environmental issues have occurred from this tragedy. I wonder how far the law will go in punishing the captain for any environmental problems that spring from this event.

  3. Are we to blame the law and the standards placed on captains for this accident? Do we hear about these types of accidents frequent enough to warrant such a conclusion? The truth may be that this captain did something that the law and that the community frowns upon. Do we re-evaluate a system that may have worked for years because one individual may have negligently crashed his ship and then fled it?

  4. Are we to blame the law and the standards placed on captains for this accident? Do we hear about these types of accidents frequent enough to warrant such a conclusion? The truth may be that this captain did something that the law and the community frowns upon. Do we re-evaluate a system that may have worked for years because one individual may have negligently crashed his ship and then fled it?

  5. This is clearly a case of gross negligence on the part of the captain. The routes that these ships travel are preprogrammed to avoid the possibility of human error. It would be like someone driving in the grassy/median area between an eastbound and westbound highway.

    Also, having been on several cruises, it has always been protocol that as soon as the ship leaves its departure port, the entire crew runs a lifeboat drill. Everyone has to return to their room, get life jackets, report to muster stations, and then proceed to the lifeboats where the crew instructs on the procedures in the event of an emergency. Based on what I’ve read, a group of 700 passengers that boarded the ship outside of Civitavecchia hadn’t received any such instruction despite having been on board for over 24 hours.

    I think there is lots of liability to go around here, for both the Captain and Costa Cruises. I think Costa has been publicly bashing the Captain in the hopes of decreasing their potential exposure to liability.

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