M/S Costa Concordia incidents January 13-14, 2012 caused by ship not being seaworthy - Part 6

The 25 watertight doors on Costa Concordia sank the ship! They were opened by the staff during Abandon ship and not closed later


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M/S Costa Concordia was a very badly designed and operated ship or more a floating, unsafe, cheap hotel on a barge, where no safety at sea, social or moral rules were applied. The objective was the make as much money as possible!

We have been told that vessel turned too late ... and in the wrong direction ... by an incompetent Master and it caused the contact!

Watch/listen to this from the VDR made public October 2012.

Already at 21.39.32 hrs Schettino orders 300 starboard, which was exactly as planned! Watertight doors #12 and #13 were open! At 21.43.38 hrs the ship is still heading up on land! Watertight doors #7, #12 and #13 were open! Etc, etc. After the 21.45 hrs contact the watertight doors indication goes blank and we do not know why. It should not be affected by the Black-out. Anyway, the doors should not have been there or should have been closed.

When the accident happened only three damaged watertight compartments (#4,5 and 6) above double bottom were up-flooded and engine crew evidently informed the bridge. The situation was safe from stability and buoyancy points of view. But evacuation was necessary due to the Black-out and lack of electricity. Later at least two more watertight compartments (#3, 7 and 8) were flooded by progressive flooding through watertight doors and stability was reduced causing capsize starting around 00.22 hrs next morning. Different info is around and Italian experts of all kind ignore it.

The majority of the catering, Asian, low paid staff, almost 900 persons or more like 100's of slaves (!), cleaning the hotel rooms and serving in the restaurants 11/12, 7/7, 24/24 up in the deck house, lived on dark decks A, B and C in the hull below the waterline and below the weather deck in several watertight compartments connected by watertight doors. The staff had no safety at sea training! They - the slaves! - were under the control of the crew purser and just did what they were told.

Any accommodation area below the weather deck of any ship must have two means of escape situated between main bulkheads and they should be stairways as widely separated as possible. One stairway should provide direct access to the embarkation deck or higher deck and the other stairway should lead to the deck over or a higher deck, which provides access to the embarkation deck by means of internal stairways and/or doors in the boundaries of the deckhouses and external ladders. If this is not practicable, the stairway which leads to the deck over or higher deck may be replaced by a trunked vertical ladder, which provides the same degree of access. Watertight doors are not accepted as means of escape ... as they must be closed at sea. Costa Concordia had only one stairway to the accommodation below weatherdeck and between main bulkheads. It made the ship unseaworthy at all times.

When the Abandon ship order came at 22.33 hrs to assemble at the muster stations to go to the life rafts, most staff first returned to their cabins down in the hull below the weather deck to collect personal belongings and many arrived in the wrong watertight compartment and opened watertight doors to reach their cabins. Or the watertight doors were already opened. The staff then rushed up and took the lifeboats reserved for the passengers.

During the evacuation the engine crew/staff opened at least eight, illegal watertight doors #7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 24 and 25 in the hull. The doors should have been kept closed at sea or not have been there at all. It seems the ship for unknown reasons could sail with doors #7, 8, 12, 13 and 24 open at sea, but that they should be closed, when the ship was close the shore and/or maneouvering.

Watertight doors #8 and #9 were between watertight compartments 4/5 and 5/6. Watertight compartments 4, 5 and 6 were up-flooded above double bottom due to the port hull damage above double bottom. The ship survived that damage with sufficient buoyancy/stability.

Watertight doors #7 and #10 (and #11?) were between watertight compartments 3/4 and 6/7 (and 7/8!) and, if they were not closed or leaking, compartments 3 and 7 (and 8) would be subject to progressive flooding and loss of buoyancy/stability would cause sudden capsize.

In an emergency crew members were assigned to ensure that the watertight doors were immediately closed. But the responsible Italian authorities for safety at sea and investigating incidents at sea have not bothered to verify what really happened aboard! It is apparently due to the conspiracy to blame Schettino for everything.

As there was a Black-out and only emergency lights worked, the watertight doors could not be closed after being opened. Then the ship was doomed! There was no watertight integrity in the hull any longer! Water spread through the open doors = progressive flooding! Stability was lost. And the ship capsized. And the ship sank!

All the fault of Schettino according to the ship owner and corrupt Italian officials of all sorts cheered on by media.

Wikipedia therefore does not mention anything about the 25 illegal watertight doors of Costa Concordia watertight bulkheads. The Italian accident investigators do not mention anything about the watertight doors of Costa Concordia You should really wonder why. The watertight doors and the hull damage are very easy to check again - the ship was in dry-dock at Genoa May 2017!

The SOLAS rules regarding watertight doors and openings in watertight bulkheads are crystal clear since the origin of SOLAS say 1960. Openings in watertight bulkheads on passenger ships are to be kept to a minimum in accordance with SOLAS regulation II-1/13.1. Accordingly, all watertight doors are to be kept closed during navigation at sea except in certain limited circumstances and, when approved by the Administration. If a watertight door is fitted, a SOLAS exemption certificate should be issued and particular instructions given. Two means of access from weather deck should always be available.

SOLAS regulation II-1/22.3, for example, allows a watertight door to be temporarily opened to permit the passage of passengers or crew, or when work in the immediate vicinity of the door necessitates it being opened. In this case, the door must be immediately closed, when transit through the door is complete or the work is finished. Additionally, SOLAS regulation II-1/22.4 allows certain watertight doors to remain open during navigation, only if considered absolutely necessary for the safe and effective operation of the ship's machinery or to permit passengers (sic) normally unrestricted access throughout the passenger area. Such determination shall be made by the Administration only after careful consideration of the impact on ship operations and survivability and shall be regulated by special instructions, restrictions, etc.

Watertight doors are thus not generally permitted but, if one is fitted e.g. between two engine rooms on a two compartments passenger ship, it must be kept closed at sea. If more doors are fitted, more exemptions must be given and particular exemption certificates issued. And these rules evidently also applies during an emergency or evacuation.


(10 December 2008) ... 

5 When watertight doors not are permitted to be open  

Watertight doors on all ships should be kept closed during navigation while the ship is operating:  

.1 in waters with high density traffic (e.g., separation zones);  

.2 near coastal waters (e.g., archipelagos, sounds, or straits);  

.3 in waters where soundings are unreliable (e.g., Arctic or Antarctic waters);  

.4 during periods of restricted visibility; 

.5 within port limits or compulsory pilotage waters; or  

.6 when loose objects are nearby, which could potentially prevent the watertight door from being closed.  

A ship cannot be fitted with 25 watertight doors. Or 70+! Only one watertight door maybe fitted between two engine rooms or similar (between a cargo hold and a stairway to open deck) - for the safe operation of the ship - but not 25 watertight doors between crew compartments - for their convenience!

These old facts were again confirmed 3-12 June 2015 when IMO/MSC adopted another proposal for Guidance for watertight doors on passenger ships which may be opened during navigation.

It is thus established that M/S Costa Concordia 13 January 2012 could not sail around with 25 watertight doors that could be open by any crew member any time, e.g. during an Abandon ship operation, without any instructions, permissions, risk analysises, etc, etc.. The ship was thus not seaworthy then and all the time earlier. And the watertight doors caused the progressive flooding, capsize, sinking and killing passengers/seamen of M/S Costa Concordia.

To blame Schettino of the ship for it, is not right. It is criminal! It is Italy. It is mafia. And USA!

You may wonder why Paris Mou Port State Control didn't stop M/S Costa Concordia any time before the sinking that was blamed on the poor Master.

I have asked them by e-mail and 21 April 2017 and got the following reply:


Dear Mr. Björkman,

Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.

Verification of the operation of watertight doors is an important element during PSC inspections. Since PSC inspections are performed whilst the vessel is moored in port, PSC inspectors are unable to assess whether the doors are being left open at sea.

Kind regards,

Secretariat Paris MoU on Port State Control

Paris MoU on Port State Control

Koningskade 4 | 2596 AA | The Hague

P.O. Box 16191 | 2500 BD LR | The Hague

T +31 (0)70 456 15 08



I have then called +31 70 456 15 08 and talked to a woman that refused to tell her name that told me, that, if any of the PSC members allows a ship to have 25+ watertight doors, their PSC inspector cannot do anything about it!

Strange, isn't it?

Why, if, operation of watertight doors is an important element during PSC inspections, why cannot PSC inspectors check, when they find watertight doors aboard a ship in port, that (1) they are according to SOLAS, (2) if existing, exemption certificates have been issued, (3) operation rules have been followed and, (4) any openings/closures at sea has been recorded in the log books, etc, etc?

Why has no cheap cruises ship with 25+ watertight doors ever been stopped by PSC for being not seaworthy?


Reason is that lazy PSC inspectors work for incompetent (and probably corrupt!) maritime administrations that allow criminal ship owners to fit watertight doors in poor crew accommodation cabins compartments below waterline in their substandard, not seaworthy ships, for ... what?? Well, one answer is M/S Costa Concordia apart from making money. Safety at sea is no priority then. Only money and profit is.

I am all for money and profits in shipping business. They pay me. But not at expense of reduced safety at sea!



The P&I Club GARD campaign 2012-13 against illegal watertight doors

Soon after the M/S Costa Concordia incidents Norwegian P&I club GARD published a long article in their members' magazine about watertight doors mentioning the possibility that Costa Concordia sank due to them and that, hopefully, the matter would be investigated by the Italian authorities. The result was that Italian maritime and judicial authorities and the two P&I clubs of Costa Concordia, The Standard Club and the Steamship Mutual Club, completely ignored the subject.

Alf M. Sandberg, Senior Technical Advisor, GARD AS has later, May 2013, produced a very clear presentation of illegal watertight doors on ships of all types (incl. a passengership with 74 (!) illegal doors) and a long list of ships, which have sunk due to open watertight doors. On pp 38-40 of the paper Mr. Sandberg mentions my findings about the illegal watertight doors of M/S Estonia that sank 1994. I evidently immediately informed the relevant authorities at the time about it and the result was that the Estonian, Finnish and Swedish authorities of all kind completely censored the matter 1994/97 (and suggested that I was a trouble maker, bla, bla).

It is not surprising that maritime authorities allow watertight doors everywhere today, even if SOLAS have very clear rules about their very restricted installations (only between engine rooms) and strict operations (to be closed at sea). Reason is that nobody really gives a damn about basic safety at sea and that ship owners can do what they like with the approval of the authorities. Officers and crew aboard are just told to shut up about it. And P&I clubs and hull underwriters just pay when incidents occur. 


Swedish Transport Agency (ex Sjöfartsinspektionen)

Mr. Erik Eklund of the Swedish Transport Agency at SE 601 73 Norrköping, was the senior civil servant handling safety at sea questions in Sweden. He could be reached at telephone +4610-495 3240 or erik.eklund@transportstyrelsen.se and he would of course confirm, if asked, that watertight doors are not permitted on any ships except one in one bulkhead for 'the safe operation of the ship' (sic) and subject to Formal Safety Assessment, FSA, HAZard and OPerability study, HAZOP, written instructions, condition that the door is always closed at sea, that every door operation is recorded in the log book, etc, etc.

Mr. Eklund had a serious problem that most ropax ferries in the Baltic Sea and Kattegatt of any flag, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Norway, etc, have several watertight doors, sometimes two (!) in one (!) bulkhead, always open at sea. Reason is that the illegal doors making the ferry not seaworthy have been approved without FSA and HAZOP by the predecessors Johan Franson and Per Nordström of Eklund with no instructions how to operate them (keep them closed at sea)!

It is a scandal that Eklund did not change the situation, e.g. order all illegal doors permanently closed (by welding) and arrange proper escape routes without these doors, etc, etc. Eklund was supposed confirm that the watertight doors on M/S Costa Concordia (and sister ships) were illegal and that the Italian Maritime Administration and US Coast Guard committed serious errors accepting them 2006 and today. Eklund resigned from the Swedish Transport Agency 2015.

Johan Franson is famous for statements that passenger ships floats on the deck house as the windows and doors there do not brake by wave and buoyancy forces and that old passengers shall jump into the sea and swim to life rafts when abandon ship, etc, etc. IMO has given Johan Franson a medal for this. 

Ms. Ingrid Cherfils, Ingrid.Cherfils@transportstyrelsen.se, is 2016 the senior civil servant handling safety at sea questions in Sweden and at the IMO. She has also - 18 January 2016 - been asked by me to confirm that 25 watertight doors in 16 watertight bulkheads on a passengership (e.g. M/S Costa Concordia and several sisterships and similar ships) is not as per SOLAS making the ship not seaworthy. Ms. Cherfils agreed same day to advise her opinion. 4 February 2016 Ms. Cherfils clarified, after studying, e.g. chapter 1.23 of my book Disaster Investigation that she will respond in due course after obtaining proper basic information from other staff of the Swedish Transport Agency. I really look forward to it. Earlier I could lobby the IMO direct about deficiencies in safety at sea. This is no longer possible. I have to lobby via my own maritime administration, which in the past always have ignored my input.

On 7 March 2016 I received the following (in Swedish - the translation reflects the bad syntax) from Ingrid Cherfils:

You have asked the question whether it is permissible to have watertight doors open at sea. Rules for whether it is appropriate and how it then should be seen by the IMO is answered by circular MSC.1380. For example becomes a two compartments damage under the rules a four compartments damage and according to the circular the ship must survive it to allow the surrounding compartments watertight doors to be closed in terms of physical damage and time. For a passenger ship built in 1986, it is doubtful whether their doors whatsoever may be opened to the sea. A criterion for this is that they are updated with respect to the design according popularly expressed the 1992 updated rules. These rules demand for degrees of protection of electronics and display, as well as technical requirements for opening / closing that must be met for the door at all to be opened at sea.


(Du har ställt frågan om det är tillåtet att ha vattentäta dörrar öppna till sjöss. Regler för om det är lämpligt och hur det i så fall ska ske framgår av IMO cirkulär MSC.1380. Bla så blir en två-avdelningsskada enligt reglerna en fyra-avdelningsskada som ska medge flytbarhet enligt cirkuläret för att medge att omgivande avdelningars vattentäta dörrar ska kunna stängas med avseende på fysiska skador och tid. För ett passagerarfartyg byggt 1986 så är det tveksamt om dessa överhuvudtaget får öppnas till sjöss. Ett kriterium för detta är att de uppdaterats med avseende på konstruktion enligt populärt utryckt 1992 års uppdaterade regler. Dessa ställer bla krav på kapslingsklasser för elektronik och indikering samt tekniska krav på öppning/ stängning som måste vara uppfyllda för att dörren överhuvudtaget ska få öppnas till sjöss.)

I had however asked her to confirm that 25 watertight doors in 16 watertight bulkheads on a passengership (e.g. M/S Costa Concordia and several sisterships and similar ships) is not as per SOLAS making the ship not seaworthy. So I have asked again (7 March 2016). The following reply from Ingrid Cherfils was received 21 March 2016:

Our general view is that SOLAS contains general rules that say that the number of openings (watertight doors) must be kept to a minimum with respect to the design and operation of the vessel. A prerequisite is that the doors are normally closed at sea according to the rules.

There is nothing explicitly saying that 25 watertight doors in 16 bulkheads contradict the rules, and that such a vessel therefore automatically be regarded as non-seaworthy


(Vår generella uppfattning är att SOLAS innehåller generella regler som säger att antalet öppningar (vattentäta dörrar) ska hållas till ett minimum med avseende på design och handhavande av fartyget. En grundförutsättning är att dörrarna normalt är stängda till sjöss enligt reglerna.

Det finns inget explicit som säger att 25 vattentäta dörrar i 16 skott motsäger reglerna och att ett sådant fartyg därför med automatik skulle betraktas som icke sjövärdigt.)

The first part is a good answer. Number of watertight doors must be kept to a minimum, e.g. one between engine rooms or similar. Evidently 25 doors are wrong!

The second part is typical Swedish nonsense. SOLAS has no rules about seaworthyness! Either you follow the rules and you are seaworthy or you do not follow the SOLAS rules and fit 25 watertight doors and ... you are not seaworthy. But a Swedish, female civil servant responsible for safety at sea cannot say so or stop such unsafe ships. Sad! Ingrid is worse than Ann Louise.

Watertight doors in passenger ships are Heiwa Co special concerns since many years!

Watertight doors are not permitted in passengerships of all types except one door between two engine room spaces in very particular cases (the ship must be two compartment), BUT are regularly fitted and kept open all the times between store, crew and passenger spaces due to bad design, stupidity, laziness, etc. of the ship owners, their stupid staff and shipyards and approved by similarly unintelligent, stupid, crazy, incompetent maritime administrations like, e.g. the US Coast Guard and the Swedish Transportstyrelsen.

Illegal watertight doors on Costa Concordia kept open at sea

The watertight doors on Costa Concordia were apparently discussed during pre-trial hearings:

"Watertight doors designed to prevent flooding were left open onboard Costa Concordia, according to leaks from a pre-trial hearing in the ongoing investigation into the ship's sinking. ... 

In its statement, Costa did not deny that watertight doors onboard were left open, but refuted the assertion that this was due to electronic malfunctions. 

An officer onboard who was questioned by investigators reportedly said the reason for the watertight doors being left open was that "this was a practice used during the navigation to ease the flow of people who were at work"."

 Corriere della Sera reported 3 July, 2012:

"Safety regulations stipulate that watertight doors should remain closed unless permission for them to remain open has been issued by the harbour office. Although Costa has applied for permission, it is not thought to have been granted. The ship's officers confirm that the doors were open because, as Simone Canessa, who was on the bridge, says in his statement, "this was standard practice during navigation to make it easier for those who were working to come and go"."

It thus seems ship owner Costa practice is to sail with open watertight doors and as there are several identical or similar Costa cruise ships you would expect that Costa improves its practices and permanently closes all watertight doors at sea.

M/S Costa Concordia had 25 watertight doors installed in the hull making the ship substandard, unseaworthy and unsafe all the time with the knowledge of the ship owner. The doors were opened and closed by any crew member at any time without informing bridge or anyone and/or getting any permission. It is clear that these doors later caused progressive flooding and loss of stability of the floating and stable vessel after the accidental contact when the ship was still stable and safe, which in turn produced the loss of stability and capsize killing 32 persons on January 14, 2012. Had the illegal doors not been fitted by the ship owner, the ship would never have capsized. And nobody would drown.

The fact that the big M/S Costa Concordia had 25 watertight doors is very disturbing as they shouldn't be there.

There exists an early voice recording of Schettino ordering the watertight doors to be closed ... after the first contact incident at 21.45 hrs had taken place but before the second incident at 00.32 hrs - the capsize - the latter killing people that for various reasons had not been evacuated.

There is no need for watertight doors on a ship of this size with a big crew and with all its automation and easy access to all watertight compartments via a service corridor on the bulkhead deck and stairwells to each watertight compartment.

Source: http://videos.tf1.fr/jt-20h/costa-concordia-retour-sur-la-premiere-audience-7587150.html

In spite of this IMO allows watertight doors to be kept open at sea!

VDR data (see below) made available late 2012 confirms there were 25 W/T doors on M/S Costa Concordia:


Note that the VDR recording does not show what happens between 21.39.34 and 21.43.33 hrs. The VDR was deactivated! Why is that? Sabotage? We do not know!

At 21:43:39 hrs we see that the ship is heading straight up on land and that a change of course 5° starboard would avoid any contact. But no such change of course was done! It seems the ship instead turned to port!

M/S Costa Concordia had 16 watertight bulkheads in the hull at frames # 28, 36, 60, 74, 100, 126, 140, 156, 180, 196, 220, 236, 252, 264, 284 and 308. There were in fact 25 watertight doors in the ship! One in each bulkhead. Nine bulkheads, #28, 36, 140, 156, 180, 196, 220, 236 and 252, had two doors!

This crazy arrangement made M/S Costa Concordia unseaworthy, unsafe, incorrectly certified and substandard all the time.

Even worse, on many passenger ships watertight doors are permanently wedged in the open position to ease flow of people and to prevent (!) frequent opening/closing and associated noisy alarm and the remote indicator triggered, so it shows the open door closed (green) on the bridge panel. It is very easy to verify the situation on Costa Concordia - send down a diver to verify all 25 doors! An incident investigation is not complete unless the situation of the illegal watertight doors is clarified.

SOLAS do not permit watertight doors in ships' hulls below the bulkhead deck and cargo ships, container ships, bulk carriers and tankers do not have any. If one has to be fitted (for 'the safe operation of the ship') on a passenger ship, this single door, apart from being closed at sea all the time, is subject to extremely strict requirements before being installed.

On above VDR we see watertight doors being opened and closed at sea all the time before and also during the inchino and after the 'contact'! And then the indication goes blank - Fault C - and we do not know if the doors are closed. It confirms the ship was incorrecly built, was not seaworthy at departure and was operated in a very dangerous manner at sea.

The only reason for a watertight door to be fitted in a passenger ship is, if one crew member has to watch equipment in two compartments, and there is no time or possibility for the crewmember to walk up and down via the bulkhead deck. If there are two crewmembers on watch, there is no need for the watertight door as one crewmember watches one compartment and the other the other compartment.

Safe access to watertight compartments is simple. If the compartment is a cofferdam or tank, access is via one manhole with cover in the bulkhead deck and a vertical ladder. If the compartment is dry and fitted with permanent electric light but seldom visited only one stairwell is required from the bulkhead deck. And if the compartment is regularly used by crew or passengers two stairwells are required to enable escape, if one is blocked for any reason. A watertight door cannot replace a stairwell.

You do not have to enter a hull compartment/tank/cofferdam to see if it is flooded. All such spaces have a sounding pipe/opening, so crew can verify that the space is (1) dry and (2) gas free.

Watertight doors below the bulkhead deck shall not be confused with weather tight doors fitted in superstructures above the bulkhead deck and deck houses fitted above superstructures. The weather tight doors are evidently permitted by SOLAS and the Load Line Convention to enable normal access to superstructure and deck house in port and at sea. Weather tight doors fitted in superstructure sides must, like cargo hatch covers, be closed at sea to prevent water ingress in severe weather due to ships' and waves' motions and the fact that the door or hatch may be temporarily submerged. Weather tight doors in deck house sides and small access hatches on weather decks (i.e. decks on the superstructure) are fitted with sills of different heights to prevent water ingress when operated at sea and when green water may be present on the exposed deck. Doors and hatches higher up in the deck house are not subject to SOLAS or Load Line requirements.

The requirements of SOLAS and other IMO safety and environmental conventions are generally highly prescriptive and not open to interpretation, so as to facilitate their uniform enforcement by different surveyors and different port States. IMO suggests that passenger ship safety has been improved since 2006 in various ways but the members ignore a lot of it and allows watertight doors to (i) be fitted, (ii) to be operated by anybody and (iii) be kept open at sea, etc, etc. 

The watertight doors of Costa Concordia were finally discussed at the Grosseto trial of Captain Schettino in September 2013. Apart from showing that nobody died on January 13, 2012, due to an accidental contact of the vessel, Schettino's defense apparently suggested that the capsize of same ship on January 14, 2012, killing 32 persons after an incomplete evacuation of passengers and crew, was due to open watertight doors causing progressive flooding of intact compartments.

Say that a staff member was working aft in a store on deck C in the hull. He/she is ordered to Abandon ship. His cabin is forward on deck C. To reach it and collect life west and personal belongings he/she opens all the watertight doors in the bulkheads in between. He/she will not walk up to deck #0, run forward and down to deck C and to the cabin and then up to embarkation deck #4. And after that the doors cannot be closed again.

Schettino's defense was 25 September 2013 only trying to prove that the ship's watertight doors did not function properly, and that is the reason the ship sank, leading to the loss of 32 lives during the evacuation. It seems the court didn't notice it. 

Tuesday 12 November 2013 Hugo di Piazza, a technician in the engine room, told the trial of Schettino that he heard a loud bang when the cruise ship contacted something off the Italian island of Giglio in January 2012, tearing a hole below the water line:

"Before he could phone the bridge, Di Piazza said he was hit on the shoulder by a 10-metre jet of seawater. He then managed to close a watertight door, only to see water seep underneath it, before he found a stairway, which was blocked, "possibly due to the buckling caused by the collision", he recalled.

Di Piazza, who was on his first shift in the engine room, said he opened another door "from which water was gushing", before finding a safe route to higher decks as the water swirled to knee level. "There was a lot of fear" in the engine room, he said."

It seems the Costa Concordia engine crew could close open watertight doors and open closed watertight doors as they liked in an emergency. That is one reason watertight doors are not permitted and that there should be two escape stairways from every engine room.  


Costa company instructions about (illegal) watertight doors

The Costa company instructions about watertight doors on all their ship can be read here (in Italian). It shows clearly that all Costa ships are not seaworthy, fitted with illegal watertight doors and operated with watertight doors open at sea, to be recorded in the log book, which is not done, etc, etc. Reason for this dangerous situation is incompetent ship owner and maritime authority not knowing better.

The US House of Representatives has also discussed (sic) cruise ship safety and asked USCG vice admiral Brian M. Salerno, deputy commandant for operations, to clarify matters but for some strange reasons the question of watertight doors were not really mentioned at all ... or that according SOLAS construction standards the watertight doors shall be automatic-closing?! It seems USCG doesn't know the basic SOLAS rules regarding installation and operations of watertight doors. Of course there is only one US-flag cruise vessel in operation, so USCG has little or no experience. Same applies to Captain George Wright, senior Vice President Marine Operations, Princess Cruises that belongs to Carnival. It is very simple:

Watertight doors in crew and store spaces of passenger ships are not permitted by SOLAS under any circumstances as progressive flooding through them may cause a damaged, stable and floating ship to suddenly capsize and sink! As the Costa Concordia had watertight doors in crew and store spaces and such spaces had watertight doors leading to engine rooms, etc, she was wrongly built and certified. 


1.1 Watertight subdivision is vital to ship stability and survivability to protect life, property and the marine environment in cases of hull damage after collision or grounding. The number of openings in watertight bulkheads on passenger ships is to be kept to a minimum in accordance with SOLAS regulation II-1/13.1 (previous SOLAS regulation II-1/15.1).

1.2 In order to maintain watertight subdivision, while allowing for the safe and effective operation of the ship, all watertight doors are to be kept closed during navigation, except in certain limited circumstances. SOLAS regulation II-1/22.3 (previous SOLAS regulation II-1/15.9.2), allows a watertight door to be temporarily opened to permit the passage of passengers or crew, or when work in the immediate vicinity of the door necessitates it being opened. In this case, the door must be immediately closed, when transit through the door is complete or the work is finished. Additionally, SOLAS regulation II-1/22.4 (previous SOLAS regulation II-1/15.9.3) permits certain watertight doors to remain open during navigation but only if considered absolutely necessary to the safe and effective operation of the ship's machinery or to permit passengers (*) normally unrestricted access throughout the passenger area (*).

Horrible example of incorrect watertight doors (total 40!) in watertight bulkheads of the hull of a cruise ship (not Costa Concordia). 22 doors are fitted in crew/passenger accommodation spaces and 4 doors between store rooms aft on deck #2. 6 doors are fitted between service spaces on deck # 1 and 8 doors are fitted between engine, pump and tank rooms on deck #0 (tank top). Several bulkheads have 3 or 4 doors! It is probable that Costa Concordia was similarly incorrectly built.

And here is a video how the passengers shall operate these illegal doors.

(*passengers should not be permitted in the vicinity of a watertight door under any circumstances in this writer's opinion. The 'or to permit passengers (!!) normally unrestricted access throughout the passenger area' has been added by crazy N. Europe maritime administrations led by Sweden around the Baltic, where many (unsafe) ferries carry passengers down below the bulkhead deck and watertight doors are fitted and always open at sea, so passengers can go to the toilet. It makes the ferries unseaworthy ... but according SOLAS! On Costa Concordia there were no watertight doors in the passenger areas as all passengers were above the bulkhead deck and superstructure in the deck house).

This determination is made by the Administration after careful consideration of the impact on ship operations and survivability. 

7.4 The necessity for a watertight door to remain open during navigation should be demonstrated by the Company. The Company should satisfy the Administration with relevant information, such as operational needs, number of passages through the watertight door per time unit, alternative passageways around the watertight door and results from the risk assessment. The Company should also submit a copy of the relevant sections of their safety management procedures relating to the operation of watertight doors during navigation, as well as related information such as restrictions or limitations on when watertight doors may remain open.

Appendix 1: Only after careful consideration of the impact on ship operations and survivability should an Administration permit a watertight door to remain open during navigation.

Does the Costa Cruise company comply with reg. 7.4? What do the Costa Cruise company safety management procedures relating to the operation of watertight doors during navigation say?

And has the Italian administration permitted open watertight doors at sea on this Italian ship? On a cruise ship with 4 200 passengers and crew aboard! Why? How? Will we ever know?

The Bahamas Maritime administration is quite clear about how to operate watertight doors on passenger ships and there is no reason why Italy should be different:

1.1. This Bulletin is intended to provide guidance for the processing of an application for an exemption from the requirement to maintain all watertight doors, on a passenger ship, in the "closed" position during navigation. 

This is a control panel of 12 incorrectly fitted watertight doors that could be remotely opened and closed on a passenger ship. What did the same panel of Costa Concordia look like?

3.1.2. The instructions shall state that while underway in potentially hazardous situations
(e.g. near coastal waters or in waters where soundings are unreliable), every watertight door (except Category A doors for which the ship satisfies the floatability assessment criteria set out in MSC/Circ.1380) shall be closed except when a person is passing through it and if such a door is opened in such circumstances then it shall be closed immediately after passage has been affected. Unless an exemption has otherwise been provided. 

Only a thorough investigation can clarify these important questions. And, please, do not use the same, criminal 'experts' of the M/S Estonia accident in the Baltic Sea, 1994!

You wonder how any Administration can determine, after careful consideration of the impact on the ship's survivability, whether a watertight door may be kept open? 


Why the M/S Costa Concordia capsized

Why the M/S Costa Concordia capsized and floated on its side at 00.32 hrs on 14 January, 2012, is easy to explain. You only have to study the lost buoyancy below design waterline and what happens to the righting arm GZ curve due to (a) up-flooding of damaged compartments and due to (b) progressive flooding of undamaged compartments through incorrectly fitted watertight doors apparently kept open:

A. Four (not five!) internal watertight compartments were partially up-flooded above the double bottom due to hull vertical side being breached below waterline at 21.45 hrs (the double bottom tanks - ~30% of the volume - were generally intact). The ship remained stable and floating. Later a fifth and a sixth or more, intact compartments were progressively flooded horizontally through open watertight doors. A watertight compartment may have a length 10-19 meters and floodable volume ~3 500 m3 in the critical area being damaged.

B. Vessel thus lost buoyancy below design waterline and initial stability GM and at a certain time righting arm GZ of ship became 0 first at 0° and later at any angle of heel. Say that four watertight compartments aft first were up flooded (double bottom generally intact!) due to the accidental hull side contact damage and that vessel lost ~10 000 m3 buoyancy below design waterline. Vessel's draught would increase ~1.1 meter, the vertical centre of buoyancy B above keel would increase ~0.6 meter and the vessel would trim on the stern. The vessel would still float (as happened after the contact) but with deeper draught, as the hull (and superstructure?) had plenty reserve buoyancy above the design waterline and below the bulkhead deck. The metacentric M height above keel K would be reduced ~12% and as the ship's vertical centre of gravity G above keel K remained constant, the stability parameter GM would be reduced but still be positive as ship remained upright at a certain angle of loll (heel). Schettino thought that the condition was safe so the ship could be towed by a tug for repairs. The vessel was always upright - no heel was recorded - for more than an hour after the contact occurred.

C. At around 23.00 hrs the vessel was pushed against the island and the starboard bilge touched rocks at two locations aft PA and forward PF at about 8-10 meters depth about 50 meters away from shore and started to heel to starboard. More buoyancy continued to be lost - due to progressive flooding through open, non-regulatory, watertight doors in the hull - but now contact forces developed at PA and PF that temporarily supported the ship but also punched holes in the bottom plating flooding the starboard double bottom tanks increasing the starboard heel. Schettino probably still thought the condition was safe from stability point of view. He had then left the bridge and checked what was happening on various decks and didn't know staff had opened watertight doors. Evacuation of passengers had started earlier as there was no electricty aboard apart from emergency lighting. GM and also righting arm GZ (that depends on the shape of the reserve buoyancy above waterline in hull and weather tight superstructure) became <0 at a certain time, i.e. around 00.32 hrs the next morning. Why the vessel heeled to starboard was due to reduced GM, wind force and starboard bilge and double bottom spaces being perforated.

D. With GZ = 0, vessel heeled 90° - capsized - and landed on shore as seen on photos below starting at 00.32 hrs next day. Now 32 persons still inside the ship were trapped below water and drowned. >300 lucky ones were on the upper port side above water and could be evacuated later. Schettino, still aboard, states that he was surprised by the sudden capsize.

Source: http://video.repubblica.it/dossier/naufragio-giglio-costa-concordia/la-fuga-dalla-concordia-il-video-a-infrarossi/85900?video

 Source: http://video.repubblica.it/dossier/naufragio-giglio-costa-concordia/la-fuga-dalla-concordia-il-video-a-infrarossi/85900?video

E. Deck house and weather tight superstructure and still dry, intact hull compartments were then down flooded and ship slowly sank with ~60° heel while sliding away from shore on the sea floor. Starboard hull, superstructure and deckhouse at locations PA and PF were pushed in and seriously fractured in contact with the underwater rocks. The coral reef and underwater flora were also destroyed.

All photos of the starboard underwater hull structural damages and the damaged coral reefs/flora were made secret by the Salvors.

The fatal capsize and sinking were then simply due to incorrectly fitted watertight doors!

That 3 900 persons were evacuated within two hours before capsize must be considered a very good effort by the crew under the direction of Schettino, first on the ship and later from shore. After the sudden capsize 90°, the list was reduced again, vessel righting up a little - only 60° list - while the ship sank deeper into the water (and probably slid a little away from shore).

Accidents happen for many reasons and, if it occurs at sea, Rule #1 is that the ship owner must always support and assist the ship master aboard his vessel to sort out the incident. Why? Because at the end the ship owner ashore is responsible. At least in Europe. Always. Do not forget it. I am serious! If the ship owner doesn't support his ship master or blame the ship master, then the ship owner proves his incompetence. In America it may be different? It is quite simple in Europe. The ship owner tells media: "Yes, my ship masters, officers and crew are the best and I have full confidence in them, always. Yes, I have recommended that my cruise ships are shown off at a safe distance close to ports as PR! Yes, evidently a show off must be safe ... and in this instance something perhaps went wrong. I assume it was an accident. Ship is insured". Etc, etc. Do not ever start to blame your Master, officers and crew publicly. Just tell media the good news! "Yes, 4200+ persons were evacuated to safety ashore! No oil is spilt!"

Another lesson to learn is: How do you keep 3 200 passengers calm and orderly for evacuation, when most of them just want to be the first in line off the ship? Had nobody told the passengers to follow instructions, get life vest, personal belongings, put on warm clothing and to assemble at the muster stations, when the lifeboat alarm is given and then be escorted in groups of 145 to the lifeboats and the life raft cranes? Had not the cabin stewards been instructed to immediately search all passenger and crew cabins to ensure nobody was left behind down below? And the 900+ underpaid, hardworking, small Asian crew members or catering staff? Did they know what to do in an emergency? Could they actually read? Many of them were paid 1 $/hour and worked >77 hrs/week for 11 months down below and hardly saw day light. And please, do not open closed watertight doors on a damaged, stable, floating ship! The ship may immediately capsize and sink! Better, start the bilge pumps to keep ship afloat!

It seems it was (stupid) standard, Costa company procedure to sail close by islands at full speed at night to entertain passengers and sleeping islanders or to make other show offs. This time the ship simply came too close and too fast! But as seen at http://www.surship.eu/sites/www.surship.eu/resources/files/u7/Ferries.jpg passenger ships are often close to shore and other passenger ships, so it is just a question of being careful.

Go to Part 7.

Back to Introduction!