Appalling, yet not surprising for Italy’s justice system. It took the courts two a half years to impose 16 years of prison to Captain Schettino of the infamous Costa Concordia. Although it may seem a lot of years, he won’t start serving until after a couple more appeals, which, who knows, may free him.
What I have found most repulsive about the sentence was that only one year was imposed for abandoning ship! Isn’t abandoning ship against all ethical seafaring code? From my understanding, it’s not a legal responsibility, but it should be! In fact, I think after this tragic case, the public should demand it. Why should cruise passengers rely on the ethical choice, rather than legal responsibility of a captain? This makes me wonder, is it legal for an airline pilot to parachute out of a plane before it crashes? If so, under what circumstances? And is it a fair comparison? Perhaps not.
Captain Schettino is a terrible role model for Italian mariners and all mariners. He’s a ghastly role model for young people in general. As the Italian media has rightfully called him, “Captain Coward” is a new model. Captains of old were proud to die with their ships, under any circumstance. “Schettino the Skittish” (my name for him), felt no shame abandoning his passengers, even refusing to return to his ship when being reprimanded by the Coast Guard!
What a contrast to the behavior of an honorable sea captain. Even though he had not caused the accident (like Schettino), Captain Calamai of the Andrea Doria at first refused to get into the last lifeboat with his officers. As I wrote in ALIVE ON THE ANDREA DORIA,
“…When all of the haggard officers had reached the lifeboat, Maganini (First Officer), suddenly realized his master was not descending. “Come down!” He shouted at him from the ladder (from the listing ship to the last lifeboat on the scene). Capt. Calamai signaled with a defiant gesture of his hand that the Russians continue boarding the lifeboat and that he was remaining exactly where he was, adding sharply in his native tongue, “Andate via. Io rimango! Go away, I’m staying! Magagnini was about to do no such thing, shouting again, “Either you come down, or we’ll come up!” Seeing that his captain was standing firm, Magagnini began climbing back up the swaying rope ladder as the other officers positioned themselves to queue up behind him, again in order of rank morally prepared to give their lives. Seeing the danger in which he was placing his crew as they reported the sinking vessel, the master of the Queen of the Italian Line finally relented. He motioned Magagnini to descend, and he, too, abandoned the Doria at her most vulnerable moment, 5:30 AM on July 26, 1956.
Calamai is the heroic figure in which the Italian court should have based their sentence for Schettino!