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The Continuing Crisis of the Costa Concordia

February 3, 2013

The one-year anniversary of the grounding of the Costa Concordia was marked last month (January 13) – and the ship is still there, a vivid reminder to residents and visitors to Isola del Giglio of the miscalculation of its captain, and the loss of 32 lives.

From a crisis communications perspective, it’s “the crisis that never ends.” this month’s Smithsonian magazine’s “Fast Forward” section features the salvage operation now underway as “one of the largest ever,” and a multi-image slide show on their website illustrates the challenge:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ideas-innovations/Where-is-the-Costa-Concordia-Now-188092891.html

And the tragedy’s Wikipedia entry is highlighted by the dramatic image in this post.

In none of the many articles I’ve read in the travel trades, business and general media has there been much sympathy for Costa, or its parent Carnival. The reprehensible behavior of the Captain – who left the ship before all passengers were evacuated, was ordered back by Italian maritime authorities, but refused – certainly did not paint the cruise line in a good light, in addition to the 32 confirmed deaths.

What if a Costa official had gone promptly to Isola del Giglio, to meet with and console the passengers, as well as to help in any way possible? Though not directly involved myself, I’ve heard from several journalist colleagues that they received no official word from Costa about the accident for nearly 24 hours, violating one of the primary principles of crisis communications. By that time, the story was reported worldwide, and the survivors and marine authorities were the spokespeople, not Costa or Carnival, who seemed to try to distance themselves, judging from their non-appearance.

Would these steps have mitigated the damage done to Costa – and its then-President, who subsequently lost his job – and to the cruise industry as a whole, as questions were raised about safety in general?

We’ll never know – but I believe they would have, though they may have been rejected by Costa’s legal counsel.

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