The Costa Concordia considered

I battened down the hatches last week trying to meet a looming deadline (met, more or less). Yes, Wi-Fi was disabled and real books and photocopies teetered over my laptop. I figured a few days away from the 24/7 shipwreck news cycle wouldn’t miss much. Then I opened the Sunday Times to an enormous photograph of a half-sunken cruise ship. I’ve been playing catch up ever since.

Fortunately, the reporting on the Costa Concordia has been fantastic. NPR and BBC have been producing some great coverage of the wreck, its ramifications, and the ongoing salvage effort. For the industry perspective I rely on gCaptain–“The Captain of the Coast Concordia is Totally Screwed,” for example, offers a trenchant analysis that you just can’t find anywhere else.

With eleven confirmed dead and fears of environmental devastation to Europe’s “biggest designated marine park” growing, the Costa Concordia has turned into a media circus. (gCaptain’s server went down this morning). But why does this wreck get more press than other recent wrecks, which have also claimed lives and devastated environments? No doubt part has to do with the fact the Concordia was a cruise ship not a tanker, cargo ship, or fishing vessel.

Sadly, we expect–even condone–the everyday disasters that underwrite our global economic system. Cruise ships are supposed to be safe–they’re floating hotels not sea-going vessels–and fun–their captains apparently (routinely?) engage in “touristic navigation,” that is maneuvering a vessel to thrill tourists. Thrill they do and the cruise industry “is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry – achieving more than 2,100 percent growth since 1970.” As such a cruise ship wreck is unpardonable. But never mind those other wrecks.

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7 Comments

Filed under Along the Coast, Wrecks in the News

7 responses to “The Costa Concordia considered

  1. Dana

    Well Jamin, my paltry interpretation is based on the very clear distinction between crew of pleasure craft and crews on work boats – Down here in South Floirda we (“we” meaning those who actually undertsand the difference between hardcore marine transportation and “yachting”) call yachts “white boats”-this is not to completely negate the skills of pleasure seeking sailors but I would be hard pressed to find a captain of a yacht who cruises the intracoastal who could move up north and handle a tug and barge on the Detroit River. Thus, shipwrecks involving work boats are just part of the ‘hazard” of the job – look at the “Journal of Phernology” from the nineteenth century and read up on the description of yacht captains . . .

    • Jamin Wells

      For sure–the line between “white boats” and “real boats,” as a captain I used to work for put it, is quite clear. I’m interested by how we can still condone routine disasters and deaths just because they involve sailors. Ships and sailors still underwrite the modern economy (check out Allan Sekula’s ‘Fish Story’ for more)–its fascinating how we’re more-or-less fine with the everyday disasters that befall them as long as they do not endanger Euro-American tourists or ‘protected’ environments.

  2. I’m not a sailor (wish I was) but gathering from what I’ve read, the captain acted wrongly. His negligence had caused deaths, that should not have happened.
    Regarding how the wrecks seems to fade from the public eye so soon, I was wondering the same thing about the Rena. You didn’t hear as much about it afterwards then you do about the Concordia. Great post.

  3. I think we, the public, are more interested in cruise shipwrecks because we can imagine ourselves on the boat, while we are less likely to see ourselves on a container tanker.

    • Jamin Wells

      For sure. But its sad we are blind to the dangers and disasters of the sea while we all benefit (from fish on our plates to cheap shoes on our feet) from it. In any case, public awareness of the essential place of the sea in sustaining our modern lives is woefully inadequate.

  4. Pingback: Shipwreck Tourism: On my blog’s birthday | Ships on the Shore

  5. Pingback: Costa Concordia: One year out | Ships on the Shore

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