I can condemn the Italian captain’s “cowardice” because of all the sinking ships I’ve bravely reboarded

I have been thoroughly cheered by the vigorous denunciation around the world of Captain Schettino abandoning the sinking Costa Concordia cruise liner whilst passengers were still aboard. Allegedly he refused to get back on the ship until either all the passengers were safely off, or until it sank and he could drown with those left behind. So now he’s both still alive and the target of global contempt and condemnation for his failure.

Cheered because I’m assuming that all those mocking Schettino for his “cowardice” have, of course, done similarly brave things in the past themselves. A majority have probably got back on a sinking ship so they can speak from experience, and those who haven’t definitely would have in other circumstances had the courage to stand up, when their body and mind were telling them to panic, and literally taken on board (so to speak) the serious and imminent likelihood of a painful, horrible death, in order to save others.

That so many people have apparently already done this is immensely reassuring. (It’s also reassuring to see how many have, apparently, survived their self-sacrifice so they can now commentate on others’.)

I refuse to countenance the other possibility – that most of the commentary is by self-righteous hypocrites savagely pontificating from the safety of their keyboards about how others they’ve never met, but who hold jobs they’ve apparently romanticised as requiring a willingness to stay aboard a sinking vessel to drown, should be held to a standard of self-sacrifice that they’ve ever managed themselves. That they’ve convinced themselves that somehow tearing down someone else for “cowardice” makes them implicitly more brave themselves – that the more vindictive and nasty they are about this man’s failure, the more it makes them appear to be the sort of heroic people who we should admire. The more they differentiate themselves from this person’s failure, the further from such a failure they must be themselves, even though that doesn’t actually make any sense.

I really hope that’s not the case. Because that would be horrible:

The captain of the Costa Concordia is being pilloried for abandoning his ship and passengers, but would we have shown more courage?

COURAGE is a virtue and heroism is admirable, but do we have a right to demand them? Which of us cannot look back on his or her own life and remember decisions or compromises made, or silences kept because of cowardice, even when the penalties for courage were negligible?

If we are cowardly in small things, shall we be brave in large? Have we the right to point the finger until we have been tested ourselves? When we read of the seemingly lamentable conduct of the captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, who left his passengers to their fate, do we say, ”There but for the grace of God go I?”

No, we’re all heroes. All of us condemning the Italian captain have proven ourselves in the same or a very similar situation. We’re not shameless hypocrites!

Meanwhile, apparently the Coast Guard official who bravely climbed aboard the stricken vessel putting his life at risk to save others berated the distressed captain over the phone has become an “overnight star” in Italy.

The rest of us ordinary mortals are left to hope that one day we might have the guts to order, from a safe distance, someone else to sacrifice their life – whilst shouting at them and calling them a cock.

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83 responses to “I can condemn the Italian captain’s “cowardice” because of all the sinking ships I’ve bravely reboarded

  1. It’s not a question of whether the average punter would have done differently, it’s a simple question of job description.

    It’s the captain’s duty to ensure that everyone is accounted for before leaving the vessel – not legging it and leaving ship, crew and passengers to their fate. If he can’t fulfill that duty, he should request a transfer to the galley and hope that whoever replaces him has a better understanding of what’s required.

    Would I have been so brave? Possibly not, but I’m not the captain of a cruise ship. If I am derelict in my own duties, people have a right to criticise regardless of whether they would have been capable of doing things better.

  2. We are all expected to fulfil roles in life that require us to overcome our baser emotions: things like hate, pride and fear. When we fail, and give in to those base emotions, we open ourselves to deserved criticism.

    Ship Captains are no different. In fact given that they voluntarily accept responsibility for the safety of hundreds, even thousands ,of other human beings I think it’s fair to require very high standards of behaviour from them.

    Yes we are all capable of acting through cowardice, but that shouldn’t stop us from striving to overcome that instinct.

    The public shaming of someone who has spectacularly failed in this regard serves an important social purpose – there should be a sanction for those who have accepted great responsibility and then failed to execute that responsibility due to personal cowardice.

  3. Even if you’re prepared to excuse the guy for not reboarding (at the most generous interpretation) a sinking ship, running a fully-functioning ship aground in good weather is negligent in the extreme.

  4. If his captaining was negligent, then of course he should be punished for that. But I’ll wait till the evidence is in before judging him.

    As for “it’s his job to be stay to drown” – is it? Apart from romantic assumptions that people with other jobs than ours should be prepared to CHOOSE to DIE horribly if things go wrong, is that based on his employment contract, or the law? A ship’s captain’s job is about running a ship, not drowning.

    And of course even if it WAS part of the job description, it’s something nobody knows how they’ll handle till they’ve experienced it. It’s easy to sit back safely and say “well if I were a captain I’d definitely be brave enough to choose to go down with the ship if the worst happened”. But until you’ve experienced that life-or-death panic – and done the heroically brave thing – such pontifications are more than a bit hollow.

  5. Are you trolling Jeremy?
    What kind of piss-weak argument are you trying to mount by calling critics
    of that fop, Schettino, hypocrites?

    If there is another captain out there who abandoned his post and left his passengers to die in an emergency and then criticised Schettino, then fair enough, use the word hypocrite.
    Otherwise, please don’t assume that everybody is coward.

    Everyday, ordinary people risk their lives to help others.
    I’d like to think that I would do the same if the ocassion arose.
    If you don’t think that you could muster the required courage to help your fellow man, then fine, learn to live with it but, please, don’t tar me with that brush.
    You have no right to assume that I’d go running off to Mama as soon as there was a danger of water damage to my coiffure.

    BTW, the little braggadocio didn’t abandon ship.
    Apparently, he tripped and fell into a passing lifeboat!!
    Now what does that remind me of?
    Oh yeah, that’s right!

    Cheers

  6. BTW, here is one of Schettino’s victims.
    I wonder if he bounce off Sándor as he accidentally fell into the lifeboat?

    Cheers

  7. Everyday, ordinary people risk their lives to help others.

    And they wouldn’t be hypocrites for criticising others for failing to do that.

    Although, strangely, it seems that having experienced that moment makes them less likely to condemn, as they understand how difficult it would be to overcome that panic and instinct for self-preservation.

    I’d like to think that I would do the same if the ocassion arose.

    Me too. But I haven’t been tested, so I’m not going to judge others who fail.

    If you don’t think that you could muster the required courage to help your fellow man, then fine, learn to live with it but, please, don’t tar me with that brush.

    Consider that for a moment, Marek. Where did I say that I didn’t think I could? (See how you’ve just suddenly leapt to a nasty personal attack based on nothing?)

    I didn’t say I didn’t think I could do it. I think I could. I like to believe I could.

    But – and I assume you’re in a similar boat, I’m very confident most people going over the top about Schettino certainly are – I haven’t been tested. It’s easy to say from the safety of my own keyboard that I definitely would, but only the crucible of that situation would really prove it.

    You have no right to assume that I’d go running off to Mama as soon as there was a danger of water damage to my coiffure.

    Did you leave any stereotypes out of that sentence?

  8. BTW, here is one of Schettino’s victims.

    On what grounds do you make that claim?

    Are you saying he died from Schettino’s failure to reboard the boat?

    Or are you confident that there was some incompetence in Schettino’s captaining of the ship that means he was at fault in the disaster, although such a claim has not yet been established on the evidence?

    Now I’m wondering if Schettino could get a fair trial anywhere in the world, let alone in Italy.

  9. narcoticmusing

    I don’t know about this one Jeremy. While I agree there is no duty to die, there is certainly many jobs where one is expected, and remunerated accordingly, to take on certain risks. Police deal with this everyday. The greatest category of non-citizen deaths on Black Saturday were firefighters. No one would board an aircraft if at the sign of trouble, the pilot took a parachute and dived out.

    There are several issues that concern me with this, first is the overly simplistic male-centric view of duty of care, that we owe no one anything but to not harm them (unless we have a specific duty imposed). This is that ideal that if you see someone drowning and there is a life vest beside you, you are under no obligation to throw it to them. You can just stand there and watch. You don’t even need to call for help. This is a disturbing state of the law that focused purely on punishing prohibitions rather than being more aspirational. But that is a debate for another time.

    I admit I am not privy to all the facts – few of us are – but I believe many are critical of the captains timing. When it was first described to me it reminded me of the evacuation safety test at the nuclear power plant in the Simpsons – Homer got out first and barred the exit so no one else could. When the captain abandons ship, he implicitly does this for many – his job was to command and coordinate. He had full oversight, no one else.

    The media skinned Nixon alive for getting a haircut during Black Saturday – an event she wasn’t even needed for in comparison to the Captain of a ship.

    Disclaimer: I’ve been in a life and death type situation and opted to help the other. I don’t expect that of other people, but I do expect more from someone who accepted the role and remuneration for it.

  10. narcoticmusing

    I could also add to my previous post (assuming wordpress lets it out) that it is arguable that the Captain is responsible for the incident (as he is ultimately responsible for the running of the ship etc) – thus, shouldn’t he be held account for his conduct as to what he did to rectify the situation he created?

    If I set fire to house, even without malice (say I smoked and my cigarette lit a curtain on fire) – should I not try to:
    a) put the fire out
    b) call the fire department
    c) ensure others in the house are safe?

    There is no duty on me to stay until the fire burns the house down, but surely it is not reasonable for me to just run out the moment the curtains catch?

  11. I do expect more from someone who accepted the role and remuneration for it

    Did he?

    As I’ve noted several times above, I haven’t seen anyone demonstrate credibly (according to the law or his employment contract) that it is actually part of the captain’s job to go back aboard to drown – it’s easy to assert that it is because, hey, that’s what the captain on the Titanic did in that movie, but that doesn’t make it true – or that he’s actually paid “danger money” or anything like that to compensate him for sacrificing his life.

    Your house fire analogy doesn’t work, because we haven’t established that the accident was his fault. If it is, then he should be punished for that.

    His culpability or otherwise for the accident doesn’t seriously alter whether he should try to save lives, though. It’s a separate issue. Of course we should try to save others – but the point is whether someone who’s never actually endangered their life in that sort of terrifying situation has the right to damn someone who, when faced with that situation, fails to be brave.

    I’m yet to see that a ship captain has a legal duty to sacrifice his life to save others. Obviously it’s admirable and heroic to do so, and if you didn’t you should probably feel guilty for the rest of your life (and I suspect would) but that’s not the same as being a conscious failure to do your duty.

    My point is that a little humility and self-awareness in the criticism wouldn’t go astray. The sanctimony from people who may well in the same situation, for all they know, have failed as well (which, in the absence of passing such a test, is all of us), acting as if they have some great moral authority with which to judge, is obnoxious. Keyboard heroes aren’t as impressive as they think they are.

    And the media beatup of Nixon was largely unfair and stupid.

  12. narcoticmusing

    Ok, instead of the house fire analogy – say, it is a fire on my property that I didn’t cause – should I still say to hell with my neighbours?

    He is currently facing charges relating to abandoning ship, so I dare say there was a duty there in that jurisdiction. In terms of fault, as I mentioned, he has the overall authority for the ship. He has already admitted to taking an unauthorised course that led them closer to the reef. He can’t hide behind some curtain of blaming a subordinate just because he what, wasn’t there? While navigating an unauthorised path near a reef? He should’ve damn well been there.

    My very limited understanding of maritime law does suggest a duty to be (approximately at least) ‘the last to leave’ relating to the duty to ensure the safety of all the passengers and crew. So the issue isn’t so much that he didn’t get back on the boat, but that he left when he did. That he didn’t give orders to evacuate and instead mislead the crew (I am of course basing this on witness testimony to media so I concede these are not be the full or credible facts).

    Yes the beat up of Nixon was stupid – but that was because the general public don’t understand the role of public servants in these situations (or at all for that matter). Nevertheless, the role of the Captain is not so vague nor easily transferable to another.

  13. narcoticmusing

    Keyboard heroes aren’t as impressive as they think they are. Are you suggesting people do not have the right to comment on something unless they have had direct experience of it? They have no right to discuss, hold a view, consider the social value of a persons response? If someone acts as a hero we certainly do. Why not if they do not?

    Nevertheless, I also agree with you that a little humility, self-awareness and perhaps even compassion wouldn’t go astray in our media / commentary responses in general – but then, I’ve found you only get that when the subject is a journalist. Eg. Roebuck. Suddenly the commentary was terribly sympathetic and ‘oh please, lets not judge or get hysterical’…

  14. say, it is a fire on my property that I didn’t cause – should I still say to hell with my neighbours?

    “Should”, of course not. Would the rest of us to have credibility to damn you for not running into the conflagration to try to say them? No.

    Most of the time professional firefighters won’t run into the house if there’s a high likelihood of death, either.

    He is currently facing charges relating to abandoning ship, so I dare say there was a duty there in that jurisdiction.

    We’ll see. Nobody here has been able to point to the law that supposedly requires him to stay aboard a sinking ship. If it exists, surely there’d be some media report citing it directly…

    The issue about whether his captaining of the ship before the accident was incompetent or negligent is of course one for a court to decide. If he’s at fault, then of course he will and should be punished. And there’d be no issue blaming him in full, because captaining the ship competently IS his job.

    But you haven’t shown how getting on board the sinking ship is a part of his “captaining the ship” duties.

    My very limited understanding of maritime law does suggest a duty to be (approximately at least) ‘the last to leave’ relating to the duty to ensure the safety of all the passengers and crew.

    What’s that based on? What’s your source?

  15. Are you suggesting people do not have the right to comment on something unless they have had direct experience of it?

    No, but their self-righteous pontifications about what others “should” do in a horrendously difficult situation they’ve never faced have little credibility.

    They have no right to discuss, hold a view, consider the social value of a persons response?

    Sure they can. But if they can’t address the issue realistically, with some empathy, then their contribution may well be hollow and of little value.

    If someone acts as a hero we certainly do.

    Interesting point. Because imagine how you’d react to a commentator minimising the heroism of someone who’d risked their life to save another as if there was nothing especially brave about it. You wouldn’t turn to that commentator and ask – says who? How can you say it’s not especially brave? Have YOU ever risked your life to save another?

    In all these cases the criticism implies that the person making the criticism is a better person, a person who has fronted the challenge and succeeded, and who can therefore without being a hypocrite be unimpressed by other heroes or damning of those who fail to be a hero. If they haven’t, then they’re little more than boastful, self-righteous, arrogant hypocrites.

    Nevertheless, I also agree with you that a little humility, self-awareness and perhaps even compassion wouldn’t go astray in our media / commentary responses in general

    Definitely.

  16. narcoticmusing

    Apologies J, my only experience is with US Maritime law, which does have this (last man standing) sort of duty in its regulations/articles. I do not know the law in this jurisdiction. Perhaps one of the posters here knows?

    And I agree that there is a should be a separation between his culpability for the crash and his subsequent actions, nevertheless, if we assume that he either created the danger or was responsible for it by way of his position, then he does have a duty to mitigate it.

  17. narcoticmusing

    Have YOU ever risked your life to save another?

    Yes, I disclosed that earlier as it may make me biased.

  18. narcoticmusing

    Apologies – I read your comment too quickly and misread it – please disregard my previous post as I now realise that wasn’t aimed specifically at me 🙂

    And I certainly have heard and do think there are grounds for minimising when a person is branded a hero – for example, sports people. As to what makes a person a hero is a philosophical point – many would believe that it is only when a person goes outside that already expected of them that they are a hero. Ie is a cop a hero for being a cop or is he/she a hero when they do something particularly brave? And how brave does one need to be? Must it be life threatening? And do all life threatening moments automatically qualify? All a bit out there really.

  19. Yes, I disclosed that earlier as it may make me biased.

    Sorry, that was part of the preceding questions you’d ask the person downplaying the heroism. I agree the formatting of that paragraph makes it ambiguous.

    if we assume that he either created the danger or was responsible for it by way of his position, then he does have a duty to mitigate it.

    He has a duty to mitigate it like every other human being, but I’m yet to be convinced that extends to sacrificing his life.

    Obviously it’s a good and heroic thing to do, and something I would hope I would do – but that doesn’t make it a duty, or something about which I can pontificate credibly from the safety of my keyboard.

  20. And how brave does one need to be? Must it be life threatening?

    My point was if someone was being branded a “hero” for doing something brave and life-threatening and for an obviously heroic purpose, saving someone else’s life, and then some nonentity from whom we’d never heard before was saying “bah, that’s nothing impressive” – we’d turn to them and ask “Really? When did you do something as brave and for such a good reason?”

    Same should apply when it’s someone being damned for failing to be heroic.

  21. narcoticmusing

    I certainly agree that there cannot be a duty to die (or to put yourself in such a position that it is inevitable). I guess we’ll need to wait and see as to if the Captain was simply in that position or, as the witness testimony (granted, obtained by media whores) suggests, he bailed far sooner than that point of ‘imminence’ that would thus place us in a position as a society to question the social value of such a act. Just as we praise the social value of bravery and the social value of the good Samaritan.

    It is that there where your concern is – and has merit – the standard to which commentators, with all the glory of hindsight and no imminent threat to their lives, judges the actions of another.

  22. narcoticmusing

    This site has a good and basic run down of some of the legal aspects for the many who do not speak legal-ese but are curious 🙂

    http://everydaycounsel.com/2012/01/17/schettino-ing-the-bed/

  23. As I’ve noted several times above, I haven’t seen anyone demonstrate credibly (according to the law or his employment contract) that it is actually part of the captain’s job to go back aboard to drown

    Is this a deliberate strawman Jeremy?

    Surely you realise that Schettino is not being criticised for failing to drown, but for failing to stay aboard the ship to co-ordinate the evacuation (as is his responsibility as Captain)? It’s not “his responsibility to drown” – that’s quite a ridiculous characterisation of the criticism being levelled at him.

  24. Surely you realise that Schettino is not being criticised for failing to drown, but for failing to stay aboard the ship to co-ordinate the evacuation (as is his responsibility as Captain)?

    That’s not the whole of the criticism. The criticism is being put that he dared to leave the ship before all the passengers were off the ship, and if he couldn’t rescue them all, he should’ve gone down with it. (Obviously with hindsight we know it wasn’t going to keep sinking, but he didn’t.)

    And it’s being put sanctimoniously by a lot of people who’ve never risked their lives for another.

    And if he did panic and flee, then that’s obviously flawed behaviour, and not at all admirable – but before going too far overboard (as it were) attacking the man, critics who’ve never faced such a moment should have the humility and self-awareness to concede that they cannot know how they’d react in the same situation.

    It’s not “his responsibility to drown”

    We agree.

  25. The criticism is being put that he dared to leave the ship before all the passengers were off the ship, and if he couldn’t rescue them all, he should’ve gone down with it.

    If that’s your understanding of the criticism levelled at the Captain then I can see why you are reacting in this way!!

    BTW – the ship didn’t actually go down – it just foundered and is now laying on its side. Ergo it’s not really possible to hold the view that the Captain should have gone down with his ship. However it is possible – arguably reasonable even – to believe that it was his duty to stay aboard to co-ordinate the evacuation for longer than he did.

  26. {NOTE FROM SITE OWNER: I OBJECT TO THE CONTENT OF THIS COMMENT, BUT IT SLIPPED THROUGH MODERATION. AS IT HAS NOW BEEN REBUTTED BY OTHER COMMENTERS I WILL LEAVE IT UP, BUT WITH THIS NOTE DISAVOWING IT AND NOTING THAT IT IS NOT IN ANY WAY ENDORSED BY ME. I ASK COMMENTERS IN THE FUTURE NOT TO MAKE RACIST ASSERTIONS IN THE COMMENTS OF MY BLOG.}

    It would appear some races do not operate well under pressure.

    I suggest if anyone is interested they read the accounts of both the American and British enquiry into the sinking of the Titanic.

    It is on record that the Italian crew members (mostly catering jumped over women and children to get to the life boats. In one case a British officer shot one of them.

    Now standing by for the avalanche of racist comments I am about to receive for telling the truth. I can take it, because I am not a racist.

  27. http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/gunshots-on-titanic.html – United StatesCached – Similar

    Were shots fired as the Titanic went down? … I saw a lot of Italians, Latin people, all along the ship’s rails — understand, it was open — and they …. Both were depicted as cowards who had survived only by sneaking into a lifeboat. …. Earl Chapman ( 2001 ) Gunshots on the Titanic Titanic Research (ref: #1484, accessed 1st …

  28. I must have been absent in school the day they gave a lesson on how the Italians form a separate race.

  29. “I must have been absent in school the day they gave a lesson on how the Italians form a separate race.”

    I think you were just absent from school.

    Never the less, my statement is true. Unfortunate I know, but still true.

  30. Splatterbottom

    “It would appear some races do not operate well under pressure.”
    Can you really say that that was a “race” thing Lynot? There are a lot of other things to exclude.

    One thing that is not forgivable is the way uber hypocrite James Cameron portrayed a good man in his movie to make an idiotic point .

  31. As for “it’s his job to be stay to drown” – is it?

    Not only are you using quotes to present a statement no-one has made – either literally or in any sort of equivalence – you’re using them to create a straw man argument.

    You should be embarassed to have written that.

    No-one is saying the Captain should have “stayed to drown”, they’re saying he should have fulfilled his obligations to ensure the people he was responsible for, were safe.

  32. No-one is saying the Captain should have “stayed to drown”, they’re saying he should have fulfilled his obligations to ensure the people he was responsible for, were safe.

    Yes they are – they’re saying he should’ve stayed even if it meant drowning, so long as there were passengers on the ship.

    Don’t tell me you’ve not seen people demanding that he be the last to leave.

  33. Don’t tell me you’ve not seen people demanding that he be the last to leave.

    Well no, I haven’t, but that’s probably because I try to avoid the outrage press wherever possible. Are we talking about people we should be taking notice of, or hordes of hysterical bogans in the letters page ?

  34. If you care to follow the links, and read the translation, no one was called a “cock”.

    And, in a maritime legal decision:
    “The passenger stands in a position different from that of the officers and seamen. It is the sailor who must encounter the hardships and perils of the voyage. Nor can this relation be changed when the ship is lost by tempest or other danger of the sea… for imminence of danger can not absolve from duty. The sailor is bound, as before, to undergo whatever hazard is necessary to preserve the boat and the passengers… The sailor (to use the language of a distinguished writer) owes more benevolence to another than to himself. If an ordinary seaman, was “bound” to set a greater value on the life of the passengers than his own, how much greater is the master’s obligation to both passengers and crew?”
    Jurisdiction aside, (this refers to an American case) the principle seems sound.
    Some captains have left immediately after giving the “abandon ship” order, they argued it mattered not when they left. This seems indefensible.
    Jeremy, I think you give this captain too much latitude. And yes, I think he should have stayed. There is no requirement for him to go down with the ship, but I think he should be near last to leave once all else are on the lifeboats, if there is room, and there is no further life saving function to perform on the ship. HTFU Captains!

  35. Some captains have left immediately after giving the “abandon ship” order, they argued it mattered not when they left. This seems indefensible.

    Why?

    Jeremy, I think you give this captain too much latitude.

    Boom tish.

    And yes, I think he should have stayed. There is no requirement for him to go down with the ship, but I think he should be near last to leave once all else are on the lifeboats, if there is room, and there is no further life saving function to perform on the ship. HTFU Captains!

    That’s very easy for us to say from safety.

  36. Why?

    I’m sure you’ve worked in an office somewhere that has a fire warden. Those are the people who have voluntarily accepted the responsibility of ensuring everyone else in the office gets out safely when the fire alarm goes off.

    If the fire alarm goes off and that person bolts out the door, their actions are indefensible. Because they have shirked the responsibility they undertook.

    That’s very easy for us to say from safety.

    That doesn’t make it wrong.

    The captain has a responsibility for his crew and passengers. He has voluntarily and knowingly taken on this responsibility, in the understanding that this may involve life-threatening situations. For this he is remunerated quite handsomely.

    This man shirked his responsibility and his duty of care. It’s that simple. Yep, he might have died – but that’s a risk he accepted and was paid to take.

  37. Those are the people who have voluntarily accepted the responsibility of ensuring everyone else in the office gets out safely when the fire alarm goes off.

    Everyone? Have they agreed to go back when their chances of survival if they do are remote?

    If the fire alarm goes off and that person bolts out the door, their actions are indefensible.

    Well, yes… but also human. My point is that unless you’ve been in that situation of putting your life at risk, it’s easy to assume you’d do the heroic thing.

    The captain has a responsibility for his crew and passengers.

    Yes, the argument is about how far that extends.

    He has voluntarily and knowingly taken on this responsibility, in the understanding that this may involve life-threatening situations.

    Has he? I think you’re making some assumptions there.

    For this he is remunerated quite handsomely.

    Is he? Or is he just paid as a management person with expertise in a particularly specialised form of machinery? Is he paid for his skills in carrying out the duties of captain as they ordinarily exist – since for most of these ships, sinking is very unlikely.

    This man shirked his responsibility and his duty of care. It’s that simple. Yep, he might have died – but that’s a risk he accepted and was paid to take.

    Is it, did he, was he.

    How simple it is to make such serious declarations from afar knowing we’d never have to live up to them.

  38. Everyone? Have they agreed to go back when their chances of survival if they do are remote?

    This is a straw man. The source of the criticism here is that he left in the first place. Not going back was simply an exacerbation of the original fault.

    Yes, the argument is about how far that extends.

    Your position appears to be that it doesn’t extend past “my name’s Jack and I’m all right, thanks”.

    Has he? I think you’re making some assumptions there.

    Wow. Are you seriously going to try and argue that someone who has accepted the position of captain of a boat, hasn’t both been comprehensively informed of, and consequently considered, the possibility that maybe one day his boat might sink in the middle of nowhere and kill everyone on board ? It’s not exactly an unheard-of event.

    Is he? Or is he just paid as a management person with expertise in a particularly specialised form of machinery? Is he paid for his skills in carrying out the duties of captain as they ordinarily exist – since for most of these ships, sinking is very unlikely.

    Holy crap, you really are arguing that.

    Would you make the same statement about the captain of a jumbo jet ? That he’s just a manager ? Big plane crashes aren’t exactly daily events. If that guy who piloted the QANTAS A380 with the busted engine had jumped out the window and run away the instant it stopped moving, and consequently people died because he didn’t finish the necessary safety procedures, that it was OK ?

    Is it, did he, was he.

    Yes, yes, yes.

    This bloke didn’t just wake up one day suddenly in control of a cruise ship with thousands of people on it. There was a career path involved.

    How simple it is to make such serious declarations from afar knowing we’d never have to live up to them.

    Very simple. But, as already mentioned, that doesn’t make it wrong.

  39. Have they agreed to go back when their chances of survival if they do are remote?
    This event was not quite the same as going back into a burning building. Yet there are people who, as their duty and training require, do that. The ship was listing, not yet sinking, and apparently his legal and moral obligation was to be on board.

    U.S. Navy Regulations direct commanding officers of ships suffering major casualties to remain with their ship “as long as necessary.” Should it become necessary to abandon ship… Article 0852 specifically states that a commanding officer is to be the last one to leave. [Allen, U. of Wash. Law Rev.] So, in the US military the captain better be last off or else charges will be laid.

    There is the Standby Act, requiring captains of ships collided to remain at the site and assist, but the best authority is the Merchant Marine Officers’ Handbook. Not law, but a “cornerstone” for all officer training. The captain must be the last man to leave the vessel, must use all reasonable efforts to save everything possible, is responsible for the safe return of the crew, communicating promptly with owners, in charge until lawfully suspended.
    The question of what we might do in similar circumstances is of some small interest; but it does not mitigate his failed obligations as the captain of his ship. Shettino’s initial survival instinct in the face of panic and possible death was stronger than his sense of duty and he ran. He had time on shore to reflect. He was given an opportunity to return to the ship and refused. I would argue his refusal to return was the greater sin.

    And lastly, perhaps if Mark Wahlberg had been there none of this would have happened.

  40. narcoticmusing

    phyllis5tein – I should point out that the article you refer to is for US naval regulations, which are much stricter than the requirements for civilian vessels in the US. Indeed, a US naval vessel that goes to the aid of a civilian vessel has a higher duty of care than the captain of the civilian vessel.

    Just wanting to put a bit of balance there.

  41. @ narcoticmusing. And indeed you are right. I included it as an example to illustrate the conformity in this particular matter across jurisdictions. I then went on to say: “The “best authority” is the Merchant Marine Officers’ Handbook,” which informs maritime law world wide.

  42. narcoticmusing

    Agreed phyllis – much of that was in the link I provided. It is useful for people to understand the actual duties when they claim that there should be a duty.

  43. Jeremy, you’re being obtuse.
    My only stated problem with your article is the inane labelling of critics of Schettino as “shameless” and “self-righteous hypocrites”.
    Presumably, you have an insight that all those questioning Schettino’s behaviour would have acted with similar cowardice?

    I think you’re deliberately confusing a lack of empathy with hypocrisy in order to ratchet up the outrage and make good copy.

    Where did I say that I didn’t think I could? (See how you’ve just suddenly leapt to a nasty personal attack based on nothing?)

    By calling those who criticise Schettino hypocrites, you’re inferring that they wouldn’t act with courage.
    I’m sure that when you make those presumptions, you don’t mean it as a personal attack, nasty or otherwise.
    I’m sure that when you label people who are appalled by Schettino’s actions as “shameless” and “self-righteous hypocrites”, that it’s based on a perfect understanding of their flawed and malicious nature and not an assumptive leap based on nothing.

    BTW. The Costa Concordia was registered in Genoa and sailed under an Italian flag in Italian waters. This accident falls squarely within Italian jurisdiction. Under Italian Maritime law a commander who abandons ship where casualties occur is up for eight years in gaol.
    If no passengers perish, then he or she can face two years imprisonment.

    Cheers.

  44. Jeremy, you’re being obtuse.
    My only stated problem with your article is the inane labelling of critics of Schettino as “shameless” and “self-righteous hypocrites”.Presumably, you have an insight that all those questioning Schettino’s behaviour would have acted with similar cowardice?

    Talking of obtuse, I think we can all see how Marek’s just created a strawman version of my post where I call “all” critics of Schettino – any person, regardless of qualification and personal record of heroism, making any criticism whatsoever – “shameless” and “self-righteous hypocrites”?

    By calling those who criticise Schettino hypocrites, you’re inferring that they wouldn’t act with courage.

    If they haven’t demonstrated that sort of courage before, they certainly can’t know they would. A bit of humility wouldn’t go astray.

    Under Italian Maritime law a commander who abandons ship where casualties occur is up for eight years in gaol.

    Source?

  45. It’s in this from the BBC…

    “Article 1097 of Italy’s Maritime Law says that if the commander does not leave last, he risks two years in jail; if the vessel is lost, two to eight years; if the boat is used to carry people, three to 12 years.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16611371

  46. “Can you really say that that was a “race” thing Lynot? There are a lot of other things to exclude.”

    I am not saying anything, and besides when is stating a fact racist?

    The captain concerned is thus far innocent of anything, and it is clear he is being tried by the media. However, if after any court action and subsequent appeal he is found guilty, he deserves all the insults he is receiving.

    I have never read so much tosh about this incident, the law of the sea is, it’s down to him, even if the ships cat was on the helm when she foundered.

  47. even if the ships cat was on the helm when she foundered.

    This may be close to the truth. People report seeing pussy on the bridge.

  48. This may be close to the truth. People report seeing pussy on the bridge.

    Indeed. Russian I assume. Or should I just say a female homo sapien?

  49. I think we can all see how Marek’s just created a strawman version of my post where I call “all” critics of Schettino – any person, regardless of qualification and personal record of heroism, making any criticism whatsoever – “shameless” and “self-righteous hypocrites”?

    From your original post with my emphasis;

    mostof the commentary is by self-righteous hypocrites savagely pontificating from the safety of their keyboards

    No, we’re all heroes. All of us condemning the Italian captain have proven ourselves in the same or a very similar situation. We’re not shameless hypocrites!

    Not much straw there, eh, Jeremy?

    Cheers

  50. mostof the commentary is by self-righteous hypocrites savagely pontificating from the safety of their keyboards

    So not all.

    No, we’re all heroes. All of us condemning the Italian captain have proven ourselves in the same or a very similar situation. We’re not shameless hypocrites!

    Uh, that was sarcasm, and the fact that we’re not “all” heroes doesn’t mean we’re all not heroes.

  51. The English language what fine thing it is.

    A language where you can say what you didn’t mean.

  52. Nah, he said what he meant. He can’t take responsibility for other people’s comprehension problems.

  53. ‘Nah, he said what he meant. He can’t take responsibility for other people’s comprehension problems.’

    Indeed. I was trying to make the same mistake Jeremy made.On purpose.

    It worked.

  54. What mistake did I make?

  55. “What mistake did I make?”

    You tarred everyone with the same brush.

    In my own case I would know exactly how I would react, and what’s more I would be a poor specimen of a man if I didn’t. My point in the racist remark up the thread, (your words) was to show you that stereo typing anything was a load of shi!e. You are as guilty as me, only my comment was to show a point.

    Yep it worked alright.

    It irks me that SB was the only one on to it.

  56. I don’t really believe the people that are casting aspersions on Schettino are really capable of being hypocritical in this situation. As a lawyer, if I were to, say, decide to stop representing a client in the middle of an appeal, the loss of which would almost surely mean that he would be headed to death row (that more or less actually happened recently), people would know that that was wrong. While I could try to explain it to them, no matter what I say, it would not excuse the fact that what I did was wrong. Those people criticizing me would not all be lawyers, but in the end they would be right and it would be totally fair.

    So to, when a ship captain, who is responsible for the safety and well being of his passengers, and is trained in crisis and emergency management aboard a sinking ship, leaves his passengers without someone to lead the evacuation in the midst of a crisis, which he is trained and required to do, people latch on to the wrong that had been committed and criticize. Again, they are not all captain, but it is totally fair. That is true even if the circumstances were scarier for Schettino.

    Hardly anyone has been in this type of situation. Despite that lack of experience, they are still entitled to their opinions. It may be a bit strong to call Schettino a coward, but at the same time, that does not mitigate the fact that he acted on his fear, rather than his overriding responsibility. If we were all ship captains saying that we would not feel the slightest bit of fear and criticized Schettino for being afraid, that would be hypocritical. Here we are mostly regular people, looking at a wrong committed by someone and commenting on it.

  57. What are you talking about, Lynot? I didn’t “stereotype” anyone. I simply pointed out that those who were damning the man for failing to put his life on the line who haven’t also put their lives on the line are being hypocritical and might want to consider a little humility. All this big tough talk about how “I would know exactly how I would react, and what’s more I would be a poor specimen of a man if I didn’t” – do you? How? On what grounds should we believe that? Have you been tested?

    It’s all very well to declare from the safety of your keyboard that you’re a big brave man and would definitely stay aboard – or reboard – a sinking ship where there was a significant possibility of death. But it’s largely hollow.

    And to those who say this is a strawman, we’re just criticising his job failures without requiring him to be prepared to risk his life – check out this thread. There are comments demanding that he be last off the ship and if it goes down, he go down with it. Those are the people I was addressing.

    Everydaycounsel – what? That analogy doesn’t work at all. Obviously we can all criticise Schettino for his failures at his job, when established – although we’d be wise to wait until the facts were in before asserting the accident was his fault. The point I’m making is that there’s a huge difference between the ordinary duties of a job and putting your life on the line.

    There are two points, the first of which you’ve attempted to address (although not comprehensively) at your blog:

    1. Is it really part of the duty of a civilian ship’s captain to, in the very very unusual circumstances of one of these ships sinking, put his life on the line?
    2. Even if it were in his employment contract or part of the maritime law, is it fair to expect – not desire, but expect – someone to be prepared to sacrifice their life in these circumstances? If the small print in your job description – something that had nothing to do with how you performed your job day to day, and something nobody really thought would ever happen – suddenly activated and required you, in chaotic circumstances, to enter or remain in a situation where a horrible death was likely, would it really be so fair to wave your employment contract at you and say “ha, you signed this, now go sacrifice your life?”

    A bit of compassion – and humility – wouldn’t go astray.

  58. ..those who were damning the man for failing to put his life on the line who haven’t also put their lives on the line are being hypocritical…

    If you wish to stand by that statement, then you have a faulty understanding of the meaning of the word hypocrite.

    When I first commented on this post, I accused you of using the word ‘hypocrite’ to ratchet up the hyperbole and get a reaction (which you did!).
    I realise I was wrong.
    You were simply using the word out of ignorance.
    Buy a dictionary.

    Cheers

  59. “On what grounds should we believe that? Have you been tested?”

    Yes I have as it happens, also it is not hollow to be able just to be man, and not a big man (your words) I have been tested many times in life as I am sure many who comment here have. You do not need a disaster of this magnitude to test your manhood.

    Yes you are stereotyping, you haven’t got a clue how anyone would react and what’s more neither do I. However I do know how I would react, I wouldn’t leave a load of women and children to fend for themselves. Whether you believe that or not, I could care less.

    As for the disaster itself. Fact, this ship was not in the middle of the Atlantic ocean in the middle of an ice field. She was as close to the land as to enable the passengers to probably smell the lasagna cooking in a near by restaurant. You could probably see the reflection of peoples T.V’s in the open windows.

    The skipper of this vassal will go down for this as he should. Being a master mariner

  60. cont’

    Being a master mariner especially at this level brings with it a pay check that even Juliar Gillard would be hard pressed to match. This with the accolades and total reverence and high esteem these people have makes them VIP’S of the highest order. They are expected to be YES the big man.

    After all we send our kids to Afghanistan knowing full well that they could come back in a box They are under more pressure than this particular ships captain and they perform with a distinction that our troop are the worlds envy. They just don’t get paid as much as the incompetent idiot that was running the concerned ship.

  61. Sorry should read cheque above.

  62. Yes I have as it happens

    Really? Do tell us your tale of equivalent heroism and bravery to what you’re demanding of that captain. Please.

    also it is not hollow to be able just to be man, and not a big man (your words) I have been tested many times in life as I am sure many who comment here have.

    That’s fantastic! I’m proud of you all. Wow. So as my post suggested, your criticism comes from a position of having deliberately stayed aboard – or reboarded – a sinking ship where there was a big likelihood of dying, or something equivalent?

    I had always assumed that An Onymous Lefty was read by heroes. Here’s the proof. (“Proof” being very broadly defined.)

    However I do know how I would react, I wouldn’t leave a load of women and children to fend for themselves.

    I’m very glad to hear it, and hope that your actions – if such a day actually arose – would match your self-confident words.

    Being a master mariner especially at this level brings with it a pay check that even Juliar Gillard would be hard pressed to match.

    Does it? What do you know about his pay cheque that we don’t? Source?

  63. If you wish to stand by that statement, then you have a faulty understanding of the meaning of the word hypocrite.

    Well… they’re being potentially hypocritical. Until (or unless) they face such a test and pass it, then they’re demanding a standard of another that may be inconsistent with their personal conduct in a similar situation.

  64. Was this written to practice some lawyering stuff in defending the indefensible?

  65. No, just to call for some measure of humility, compassion or empathy.

  66. No, just to call for some measure of humility, compassion or empathy.

    An entirely noble idea and very much the thrust of Theodore Dalrymple’s article in The Telegraph via The Age.
    However, the tone of your article doesn’t match the sentiment.

    The Schettino case has had quite a lot of attention, and rightly so, because it is an almost rock solid case of dereliction of duty.
    From The Sunday Times via The Oz;

    In a recorded phone call to the coastguard at 11.40pm, Schettino said all but 200 or 300 passengers and crew had left and
    promised that he would be the last man on board.

    Yet just over an hour later, at 12.46am, the captain told the furious coastguard he was on a lifeboat. His claim that he had “fallen” into it has been widely derided. Father Vittorio Dossi, the Giglio parish priest said Schettino left the boat with his mobile phone, laptop and other personal belongings – and that two of his senior officers were with him in the same lifeboat.

    By all accounts the man has no humility, compassion or empathy and he’ll get none from me.
    Cheers.

  67. By all accounts the man has no humility, compassion or empathy

    How can you have such confidence in such a terrible charge?

    and he’ll get none from me.

    I am sad to hear that your humility, compassion and empathy are so limited.

  68. “”I had always assumed that An Onymous Lefty was read by heroes. Here’s the proof. (“Proof” being very broadly defined.)”

    Sarcasm is not your thing Jeremy. Besides staying behind to make sure women and children are helped not to drown, does not as hero make. What it does, is show that a person has a sense of compassion that over rides his innate desire for self preservation.Most of us have it. I said most.

    “Does it? What do you know about his pay cheque that we don’t? Source?”

    Well we can both play the pedant game, If he ain’t getting over 200 grand a year plus perks, I will send you a photo of me eating my own faeces. O/K I’ll concede he’s probably on half of what Gillard gets.Unlike you I can admit when I may be wrong.

    This captain no matter what transpired after his ship went up onto the rocks is guilty of incompetence. If he doesn’t get charged with anything relating to the death of his passengers he will still wear putting his ship on the rocks. You don’t have to be a barrister to nut that one out.

  69. Oh FFS.

    Point’s been made. We’re just going around in circles now.

    PS I believe Gillard is on more than $200k.

  70. Jeremy,

    with all respect – I think you’ve been working in the legal system too long. Whilst judge, jury, and “official” sanction of the government requires a high standard of proof, it is not the *only* standard available to a civil society. Censure via “shame” of the public at large is – in my opinion – a valid option in this case (and having his name trod through as mud will of course be taken into account when/if this case makes it to court). Not every issue or news story requires lawyers – believe it or not, Jez!

    Part Two: I have spent (just short of) 15 years working the world’s oceans. He’s a) an idiot at the very least, and was incredibly aware of the responsibilities he had both explicitly and implicitly agreed to. Do you know how many safety, OH&S, survival at sea and other courses I’ve have put up with in those years? How many HE must have sat through? Of course you don’t; suffice to say, he was intimately aware of the duty he owed his crew and passengers.
    b) Personally, the more I hear of the story, the less it sounds like straightforward fear, and more like “screw it, my career is over, take this job and shove it”. It ran aground 2-300m from shore? He couldn’t swim 300m? Puh-lease. He’s not a filthy coward deserving of 4 white feathers and a public lynching; he’s Rudolph Hess, having backed the wrong horse, looking for an easy out, and STILL deserving of a public lynching…

  71. Apologies for a double post, “however”…

    For the record, with modern GPS technology and current, off-the-shelf commercially available navigation software any competent Captain, mariner or helmsman will know EXACTLY where they are in the world – to within 1m (10cm if military). Bear that in mind as further reports emerge, because without mechanical failure there is no excuse for “drifting” of course…

  72. Err, “off course”. Triple post, dammit!

  73. The level of his fault in the accident will of course be determined by the investigators – he may well have been incompetent at his job, and if so then he will deserve the full penalties that apply to negligent professional conduct causing deaths.

    We’re talking here exclusively about the issue of whether someone has to be prepared to drown, and how easy from a position of safety, and having never done something similar ourselves, it is to demand that they are.

  74. Then I’ll bow out. Having done it, I’m clearly uhhh, ‘overqualified’ to hold an opinion.

  75. narcoticmusing

    I think Jeremy you are also assuming there was an imminent threat of drowning – which by the Captain’s own admission (that he left earlier than he had to) and the fact the ship didn’t sink (which if anyone was in a position to assess that it was the Captain, afterall he was a little tardy on initiating the evac from all reports). The point I’m making here is that we all have made assumptions.

    Nevertheless, I think it is appropriate for society to, based on what it knows, judge a situation based on the public use that was meant to be performed. Just as we praise heros; this appears to be someone dodging their duty and should be condemned. I do agree, however, that much of the criticism thus far is far too personal. While we only have general reports and assumptions to work with, we should condemn the conduct in a general sense (as in, if the reports were true, then his conduct was wrong; rather than simply damning the man).

  76. How can you have such confidence in such a terrible charge?

    Age and experience.
    Honestly. I think you know me by now.
    I’m a bit arrogant, but generally fair.
    After ten years of lurking around this blog, you must realise that.

    I am sad to hear that your humility, compassion and empathy are so limited.

    They aren’t.
    As a survivor of clerical sexual abuse, I spent the last 35 years of my life trying to get over my humiliation and the encumbent sense of humility which has plagued me.
    If you judge my humility as being limited then that’s a bit of a win for me, though It might irk you.
    However, I’m happy to inform you that the upside of what happened all those years ago is that I have developed a very strong sense of compassion and empathy.

    You mightn’t believe me, but Schettino is not in anyway deserving of anybody’s compassion or empathy.
    I’ll bet everything I own that, ultimately, you’ll agree with me.
    And maybe you’ll learn to trust your audience, rather than argue with them in the first instance.

    Cheers

  77. Jeremy you’re in a really bad place with this post of yours.

    A captains authority is absolute, but so is his responsibility. Go sailing sometime. Go sailing with your children.

    Secondly once a captain declares “Abandon Ship” and someone else comes up to rescue him and his ship – like the Coast Guard – he is absolutely subject to their command. Maritime law.

    And notice from the audio that De Falco tells him towards the end that he has been asking hiim to do something for a frigging *hour* and Shettino has refused to do it.

    Saving yourself is one thing but captains really are supposed to go down with their ships. Maritime law.

    Shettino’s behaviour is disgraceful and he will probably go to jail for it.

  78. Saving yourself is one thing but captains really are supposed to go down with their ships.

    TO those earlier who thought I was constructing a strawman, that critics weren’t really calling for Schettino to be prepared to drown, read through the rest of this thread.

  79. @Marek:

    You mightn’t believe me, but Schettino is not in anyway deserving of anybody’s compassion or empathy.
    I’ll bet everything I own that, ultimately, you’ll agree with me.
    And maybe you’ll learn to trust your audience, rather than argue with them in the first instance.

    Its an interesting question if anyone deserves compassion or empathy in any meaningful situation where they would really need it. I for one certainly hope for compassion and empathy unearned and undeserved.

    Defending the indefensible is another piece of language that’s been trotted out in this thread. If there are such things as indefensible acts, we must all surely be guilty of them. Maybe that’s just my crazy stupid religious morality talking though.

    So FWIW Jeremy, while I agree with the others that this guy has probably deserved his public shaming as much as anyone ever deserves such reproof, I like where you’re coming from. Even if its just the defence lawyer trapped in defence lawyer mode, humanity could do with a lot more of that and a lot less of the other.

  80. TO those earlier who thought I was constructing a strawman, that critics weren’t really calling for Schettino to be prepared to drown, read through the rest of this thread.

    Fair enough – I hadn’t realised that there really are nutjobs out there who think it is a Captain’s legal responsibility to drown if his ship sinks.

    However I do think you’re playing that game where you ‘win’ an argument by selecting the weakest counter-argument you can find and focusing on it to the exclusion of all others.

    The reality is that, as Captain, Schettino had at least a moral (and probably also a legal) responsibility to stay on board as long as was reasonably possible in order to co-ordinate the evacuation of his passengers. He appears to have failed (dismally) to meet that responsibility and he is being validly criticised for that.

    There is undoubtedly a rump of fools who have taken that criticism to ridiculous lengths (“He had a responsibility to drown!”), but defining Schettino’s critics by their lowest common denominator is cheap ploy.

    There are very real and very quantifiable reasons why it is beneficial for society to hold a rigid expectation that Captains remain on board sinking ships for as long as possible. You may be cool with dismantling that expectation in the name of “humility and compassion” for an individual but I’m afraid I don’t see any value in what you’re doing.

  81. You may be cool with dismantling that expectation in the name of “humility and compassion” for an individual but I’m afraid I don’t see any value in what you’re doing.

    Defending the “indefensible” is valuable.

    The captain abandoned his moral responsibility, almost certainly yes, and he will be investigated and tried and punished, in due course, as dispassionately as possible, under the edicts of the law. That is justice.

    Every opinion piece writer in the world calling for him to be drowned is just opinion piece writers demonstrating their own moral depravity, and hopefully, one day, they will have to answer for that evil, and all the rest, before a truly just court. Indeed, hopefully we all will. But we shouldn’t form the habit of calling other people’s actions indefensible without the benefit of omnipotence – lest we find the accusation thrown back in our faces.

    That is the largest part of Christian morality, as I understand it, anyway. Jeremy as a defence lawyer to the marginalised seems to understand it better than most people; indeed, better than many Christians, sadly enough.

  82. Of the captains, how many actually consider the possibility of the ship sinking? This isn’t a common occurrence where one might seriously have to reevaluate their career path; this isn’t like going to war, they are not plagued with thoughts of possible death every time they get on a boat.

    Can we actually condemn a human being for wanting to live? The most basic underlying instinct of life. Like the original poster suggests, unless you’ve personally jumped back into a sinking ship, you have no right to judge.

    “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one”

    I bring up this quote, not for the purpose of what he should have done, rather what he is to do now. His atonement shouldn’t come from a similar death, that is the easy way out; it is easy to succumb to the pressure of the world than to rise above.

    I sincerely hope these “Captains” that have wronged, seek atonement through life rather than death. Many more possible good in life than in death.

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