Costa Cruises has rejected any blame for the disaster involving the Concordia cruise liner, which sank off the coast of Tuscany in January.
The Italian arm of the U.S.’s Carnival Corporation that operated the Concordia on Thursday rejected allegations contained in court documents that it was late in declaring an emergency and failed to provide inadequate training for its on-board staff.
In a statement, the company placed the blame on Francesco Schettino, the ship’s captain, “who made partial, tardy and confused [communications] to the [company’s] crisis department, not allowing it to gain a clear picture of the seriousness of what was actually happening.”
Mr. Schettino faces charges including negligent homicide, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before the complete evacuation of the 4,200 passengers. He denies any wrongdoing.
He is being investigated along with eight others, including three company officials. A court hearing to determine whether they should be put on trial is due to be held on Oct. 15.
“The law provides that in the event of the accident, the obligation to inform the authorities is the captain’s, while it is the duty of the company to put itself at the disposal of the authorities,” the operator’s statement said.
According to legal documents – filed to the court on Tuesday and published by Italian media on Thursday – court-appointed experts mainly blamed Mr. Schettino but also pointed the finger at the cruise operator for delays and security breaches that led to the deaths of 32 people.
The 270 pages, drawn up by four mechanical and naval specialists, state that although the company had sufficient information it “did not have the determination to [deal with] the situation,” delaying alerts to the coast guard authorities. In addition they blame Costa for delegating emergency drills to crew members who were not trained or certified.
Costa Cruises on Thursday described the allegation that on-board staff were unprepared for emergencies as “groundless.”
“The alleged defects in the certifications of some of the crew concern only a few individuals who are not key to emergency management,” the company statement said.
Passengers have said they had little idea what was happening on the night the ship struck the rocks. Many complained of a confused and delayed evacuation process, suggesting that some crew members made decisions with no direction from the captain. Witnesses described difficulties in reaching the lifeboats, saying that some could not be lowered because of the listing of the boat.
The operation to remove the wreck of the cruise liner started in June and is expected to last about 12 months. In August, Italian authorities said the work had been delayed and the ship was not expected to be towed away until the end of next spring, rather than by January as originally expected.