Costa Concordia Disaster: Faulty Black Box Discovered, Captain Released from House Arrest

Published Nov 20, 2012 10:44 AM by The Maritime Executive

Just four days before the now infamous Costa Concordia tragedy, where the cruise ship capsized killing at least 32 people off the west coast of Italy, a technical director for Costa Cruises reportedly told a ship repair company that the liner’s black box data recorder had been broken numerous times.

New leaked e-mails reveal that the vessel had a faulty black box, it broke down in multiple instances and the crewman stated that the situation was getting intolerable. As Italian authorities currently investigate the allegation, the newly discovered messages prove that the black box was scheduled to be fixed Jan. 14, when the cruise ship was supposed to dock. The recorder was never fixed or replaced, even though the owners of Costa Cruise Lines insisted to authorities that the recorder had been working when the ship hit rocks off the shore of Giglio Island.

Not having a properly functioning recorder is hindering parts of the investigation efforts, according to Italian officials. A crashed computer system is reportedly supplying most of their information now. Documents also indicated that the ship's watertight safety doors, which were designed to prevent flooding, had been left open. Costa Cruises maintained that was not true, but officers on board claim that leaving the doors open was standard practice to make it easier for employees to come and go.

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The report also suggests that the crew was using unapproved, outdated maps that were found in the bridge of the ship.

In other news related to the Concordia disaster, the wrecked ship’s captain – Francesco Schettino – has been let off his house arrest today. However, Italian judges demanded that he does not leave town while his case is still pending. According to Reuters, he would also no longer be bound by the strict conditions of house arrest which prevented him from communicating with anyone apart from his lawyer and close family.

The judges' ruling stated that the period Schettino spent under house arrest had already had a restraining effect and ensured that he would remain under ample supervision by authorities. The captain faces charges of multiple manslaughter, causing the accident and abandoning ship prematurely. A pre-trial hearing was held near Florence in March.