Was Captain Schettino completely at fault for sailing the Costa Concordia too close to shore? Two conflicting versions of the story abound.
The company claims that the captain did everything without prior consultation. According to Pier Luigi Foschi, CEO of Costa Cruises, “[Schettino] had no approval from the operator to sail close to the shore and, in doing so, he took an autonomous decision."
Foschi admits though that sailing close to shore – when authorized – is a frequent practice. "The practice of “inchino” (literally, 'taking a bow') or “saluting” does not exist here, instead the so-called “touristic sailing” is the norm: a widely common operation that cruise operators perform all over the world and one allowed under strict safety procedures. Therefore sailing close to coast is not prohibited.”
Mario Terenzio Palumbo, an off-duty Captain once serving on Costa, also claimed "inchino" was “common practice."
"Cruising at low speed and carrying out a salute to the Island of Giglio has been carried out four times between 2001 and 2007. It’s always been allowed by the Coast Guard," he told reporters.
But coast guards official Marco Brusco denies it all. “In total, only two salutes have been formally recorded: the first took place on August 14, 2001, with the ship sailing close to land but keeping a route parallel to the coastline and fully complying with safety regulations. The second one resulted in this shipwreck”.
But Brusco, whose position is surprisingly close to that of the cruise company, suggests a third version: some routes close to land are okay, others are not. “The term saluting refers to a common sailing practice, rather than to a specific sea operation. Simply put, you navigate close to the coast, and parallel to it, in order to perform the salute of the ship to land. It is a tradition carried out in many countries, not only in Italy. And there’s no rule whatsoever – nor domestic, nor international – that explicitly prohibits it, if basic and common sailing norms are followed”.