When breaking news on the high seas swells, CNN news anchors Anderson Cooper, Ashley Banfield, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira call on the “Go-to-Guys” crew at the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots (MM&P), OceanRiver Maritime Consultancy and Resolve Marine Group.
At the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies’ full command bridge navigation simulator, in suburban Baltimore, MM&P’s President, Captain Don Marcus, illustrated the sea-sickening sensation and fatal scenario of the ferry listing and sinking.
CNN Correspondent Randy Kaye asked, “So, at this point, with the vessel on its side, people would be falling?”
Marcus described, “People would be climbing over each other, if they were in a crowded compartment. And, there would definitely be great fear and panic.”
The simulator projected an animated, panoramic view of the bow leaning on its port side as waves splashed and rescue helicopters scrambled in the sky above. Its console also features an array of communications, emergency and navigational instruments.
At the time of the crisis, “There would be various alarms,” said Marcus, as sirens wailed in the background audio of his televised interview.
Kaye continued, “Investigators believe the ferry likely ran off course due to foggy weather. They say the ship may have made a sharp turn to get back on track.”
Marcus explained, “The danger is not overcorrecting. The danger is getting to that point of no return.”
Could it Happen Here?
MM&P continued saturating the airwaves.
On CNN’s @This Hour, anchors John Berman and Michaela Pereira quizzed MM&P Chief of Staff Captain Klaus Luhta about naval architecture; asking what roles structural modifications to the ferry, overloading and unsecured cargo played in the catastrophe.
Pereira asked, “A shift in the weight of the cargo could still be a problem, though, could it not?
Luhta answered, “Yeah, it could be a complete disaster. You have to insure that anything that is loaded on that vessel is secured.”
Pereira’s final interview question hit home to Americans.
“What can be learned from this for us here?” asked the anchorwoman.
Luhta, an experienced deck officer and maritime attorney, answered, “These types of incidents can happen anywhere in the world at any time. The advantage we have here (America) is that we have very highly trained officers on board many of these vessels.”
Referencing the recent rising tide of marine mishaps aboard American-owned, yet foreign-registered cruise ships, Luhta continued, “We have American cruise ship companies using the benefit of cheaper foreign labor. So that if an incident like this does occur we‘re not assured that there is an American officer on board managing the incident and making sure people can reach safety. So, that could be a concern.”
As the news coverage continued, journalists sought more experts.
Resolve Marine Group marketing director Sela Foukimoana - already working on a media outreach strategy - hosted a satellite truck-tethered CNN crew for two days at the company’s Port Everglades, FL headquarters.
CEO Joseph Farrell, Jr., Senior Assets manager Joseph Farrell, II and training director Dave Boldt provided interviews about the importance of nautical navigation training.
Referring to airline pilot simulator training regulations compared to no government requirements for ship deck officers, Farrell told CNN’s Rosa Flores, “It's an anomaly if you consider how many people are on cruise ship vessels, in particular, these days versus the airline you flew (from NY to FL) in on.”
He continued, “The (airline) captain has been checked out every year to every 18 months. On the ship, you don't have to go back after you've gotten your captain's license.”
Farrell emphasized, his company’s premium cruise lines’ clients proactively require their captains continually receive training.
Rescue Mission Transforms to Recovery Operation
As the ferry submerged, the rescue mission transformed to a recovery operation. The media’s attention shifted to interviews with divers, wreck recovery and salvage experts.
Captain Richard Habib is the Project Executive of the Costa Concordia wreck recovery, off Italy’s Mediterranean coast. Having just arrived to his South Florida home following an overnight flight from Rome, Habib rushed to CNN’s Miami bureau. He afforded viewers a verbally vivid picture of the perilous swim for divers.
“It is dark inside the hull of this ferry,” Habib explained. “Everything is about touch and feel. Everything is turned upside-down; there is sharp metal; there are tangled wires and bodies. It is an eerie scene and potentially dangerous environment for divers.”
Habib emphasized that in his experience supervising previous passenger vessel recovery operations that divers become very passionate and determined to produce results, which leads to errors and deadly mistakes.