Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Crackers on the high sea

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If it wasn't for the fact that at least 11 people are dead and more than 20 are missing, and that the evacuation of the Costa Concordia was disorganised and terrifying for the passengers after their ship ran aground off the coast of Tuscany, the antics of the ship's captain would be laughable.

It appears that the captain ordered the ship to be sailed far too close to land in a spectacular piece of showboating, and that he initially denied there was a problem. He delayed giving the order to abandon ship for more than an hour after hitting rocks and there are reports his junior officers mutinied and gathered passengers to evacuation points.

Obviously, there were professional and well-trained crew members who expedited the evacuation, otherwise many more lives would have been lost. But the actions of the captain, Franceso Schettino, have generated worldwide contempt and mockery. He was in one of the first lifeboats off the craft and, reading the transcript of the exchange between the captain and coastguard commander Gregorio De Falco, De Falco seems incredulous that the captain could desert his ship in such a craven fashion.

De Falco orders Schettino to get back on board the ship and give him information about the numbers of passengers still on board and the numbers who have died. The captain replies that he's in a lifeboat, not going anywhere, and De Falco asks him what he is doing in the lifeboat. Schettino replies he's co-ordinating the rescue and De Falco explodes and tells him to co-ordinate the rescue from on board the stricken ship.

When Schettino says that it's dark on board the ship and he can't see anything, De Falco mocks him and orders him, again, to get back and resume command. The fastest-selling T-shirt in Italy bears the slogan: "Vado a borda. Cazza!" (Get back on board. Now!) mocking the captain and in tribute to the coastguard chief who tried to get Schettino to do his duty.

In interviews with the police, Schettino's explanations as to why he was one of the first onshore are even more bizarre. He now claims that he was co-ordinating the rescue effort on board the Costa Concordia when the ship listed, and that he fell into the lifeboat. Presumably, once he was on shore, a taxi came round the corner, its door swung open and he fell into the taxi that took him home and far away from the chaos he had caused.

I can't wait to hear the fantastic stories the captain comes up with during his trial. So far they've been crackers and so, it appears, is he.

- Herald on Sunday

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