Costa Concordia Disaster: What Happens Now?

The cruise-ship catastrophe faces two separate obstacles: finding the remaining passengers and deciding how to prosecute the ship's captain.

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Max Rossi / Reuters

Oil barriers are placed on the sea next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off the west coast of Italy, at Giglio island January 18, 2012.

The Rescue Dangers

What are the challenges in a near-coastal environment with changing tides and rocky shores?

Moser: Number one, you have to take into account the depth of water. The more shallow, the smaller amount of resources you have and they generally have less endurance. You also have your proximity to structures and land that you have to worry about. Then, if you have people that end up on a beach, you have to consider how you are going to take them from a beach to an area they can get to civilization (for help). The other big thing is the stress on the vessel.

How does working with a distressed vessel with thousands on board dictate the rescue?

Moser: You have to take into account the physical condition of the distressed vessel and the weather. If you have something in the high latitudes, you have to worry about hypothermia. You also need to know how many survival craft are coming off the craft, if they are covered, if they are tethered and how long they have been in the water. All of these items impact decisions and strategies in operational command.

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Does a cruise ship the size of a skyscraper change your approach?

Moser: It isn’t really the size that is the big thing, it is the number of people on board. A freighter with a crew of 20 to 30 people is a lot different, even out at sea. It takes a different number of resources than if you have a passenger vessel with 300 or 3,000 on board. The number of people dictates the number of resources required for the rescue personnel.

How does the partial submersion of a vessel change the approach?

Moser: It kind of all depends. The biggest challenge is to find out if everyone has evacuated. If they haven’t, then yes, that presents new challenges. Can someone survive where there are air pockets? And how do you gain access to those areas? Those are the challenges.

Correction: The article has been amended to fix the captain’s last name.

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