Captain of doomed cruise ship pleaded not to reboard
Rome— The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012 5:15AM EST
Five more bodies were pulled Tuesday out of the crippled cruise ship off Tuscany, and a shocking audio emerged in which the ship’s captain was heard making excuses as the Italian coast guard repeatedly ordered him to return and oversee the ship’s evacuation.
Prosecutors have accused Capt. Francesco Schettino of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship before all passengers were evacuated during the grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship Friday night.
The death toll nearly doubled to 11 on Tuesday when divers located five more bodies, all of them adults wearing life jackets, in the rear of the ship near an emergency evacuation point, according to Italian Coast Guard Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro. He said they were thought to have been passenger.
Prior to the discovery of the five bodies, the coast guard had raised the number of missing to 25 passengers and four crew. Italian officials gave the breakdown as: 14 Germans, six Italians, four French, two Americans, one Hungarian, one Indian and one Peruvian.
But there was still confusion over the numbers, and the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin listed 12 Germans as confirmed missing.
The Costa Concordia was carrying more than 4,200 people when it hit a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio when Mr. Schettino made an unauthorized deviation from the cruise ship’s programmed course, apparently as a favour to his chief waiter, who hailed from the island.
Mr. Schettino has insisted that he stayed aboard until the ship was evacuated. However, a recording of his conversation with Italian Coast Guard Capt. Gregorio De Falco that emerged Tuesday indicates he fled before all passengers were off — and then resisted Mr. De Falco’s repeated orders to return.
“You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear?” Mr. De Falco shouted in the audio tape.
Mr. Schettino resisted, saying the ship was tipping and that it was dark. At the time, he was in a lifeboat and said he was coordinating the rescue from there.
Mr. De Falco shouted back: “And so what? You want to go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on that prow of the boat using the pilot ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people there are and what their needs are. Now!”
“You go aboard. It is an order. Don’t make any more excuses. You have declared ‘Abandon ship,’ now I am in charge,” Mr. De Falco shouted.
Mr. Schettino was finally heard agreeing to reboard on the tape. But the coast guard has said he never went back, and had police arrest him on land.
The 52-year-old Mr. Schettino, described by the Italian media as a genial, tanned ship’s officer, has worked for 11 years for the ship’s owner and was made captain in 2006.
Mr. Schettino hails from Meta di Sorrento, in the Naples area, which produces many of Italy’s ferry and cruise boat captains. He attended the Nino Bixio merchant marine school near Sorrento.
A judge is to decide Tuesday if Mr. Schettino should stay jailed, as requested by prosecutors. He could face up to 12 years in prison on the abandoning ship charge alone.
Earlier Tuesday, Italian naval divers exploded holes in the hull of the grounded cruise ship, trying to speed up the search for the missing while seas were still calm. Navy spokesman Alessandro Busonero told Sky TV 24 the holes would help divers enter the wreck more easily.
“We are rushing against time,” he said.
The divers set four microcharges above and below the surface of the water, Mr. Busonero said. Television footage showed one hole above the waterline less than two meters in diameter.
“The hope is that the ship is empty and that the people are somewhere else, or if they are inside that they found a safe place to await rescue,” Coast Guard spokesman Filippo Marini told Sky TV 24.
Mediterranean waters in the area were relatively calm Tuesday with waves of just 12 inches but they were expected to reach nearly 6 feet Wednesday, according to meteorological forecasts.
A Dutch shipwreck salvage firm, meanwhile, said it would take its engineers and divers two to four weeks to extract the 500,000 gallons of fuel aboard the ship. The safe removal of the fuel has become a priority second only to finding the missing, as the wreckage site lies in a maritime sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises and whales.
Smit, a Rotterdam, Netherlands-based salvage company, said no fuel had leaked from any of the ship’s tanks and that the tanks appeared intact. While there is a risk the ship could shift in larger waves, to date it has been relatively stable perched on top of rocks near Giglio’s port.
Smit’s operations manager, Kees van Essen, said the company was confident the fuel could safely be extracted using pumps and valves to vacuum the oil out to waiting tanks.
“But there are always environmental risks in these types of operations,” he told reporters.
Preliminary phases of the fuel extraction could begin as early as Wednesday if approved by Italian officials, the company said.
The company said any discussion about the fate of the ship — whether it is removed in one piece or broken up — would be decided by Italian ship operator Costa Crociere and its insurance companies.
The Miami-based Carnival Corp., which owns the Italian operator, estimated that preliminary losses from having the Concordia out of operation at least through 2012 would be between $85 million and $95 million, along with other costs. The company’s share price slumped more than 16 percent Monday.
It was not yet clear if the ship — which was completed in 2006 — would ever be able to return to service.
Carnival said its deductible on damage to the ship was approximately $30 million. In addition, the company faces a deductible of $10 million for third-party personal injury liability claims.
Carnival said other costs related to the grounding can’t yet be determined.
Yardstick of success: From rags to bespoke riches
Hollie Shaw Jan 9, 2012 – 8:26 AM ET
Entrepreneur Isaac Ely, a refugee from Iran who arrived with $300 on his pocket, now tailors bespoke suits for CEOs, athletes and celebrities that could run them as much as $36,000.
Isaac Ely’s ascent from selling belts on a street corner to handcrafting luxury suits that sell for as much as $36,000 to a select client list of executives and professional athletes was grounded in his belief that success in business is all about superior service.
“It is not the money that drives me, but knowing how to make the customers happy,” said the owner of Isaac Ely Bespoke, who came to Canada in 1986 as an Iranian refugee with $300 in his pocket.
His clients include entrepreneurs, chief executives and athletes, although he has to remain mum on many of his celebrity and executive clients. “They don’t want publicity. They are always in the public eye and on TV.” But he does drop a few names of people he has made suits for, such as Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney and NHL’s Tomás Kaberle of the Montreal Canadiens.
Mr. Ely got his start with a vending cart in Toronto’s tiny Yorkville district selling women’s belts.
“Vending on the street became more difficult and I really didn’t see a future there anymore. My cousin and I saved up some money and we opened up a store selling discount items.” His interest in men’s clothing led him to open a ready-to-wear clothing boutique, Form.
“That was my base that I started in ready-to-wear clothing. My biggest challenge with that business was that I had customers coming in and I didn’t have the right size, or colour or the fit was wrong. I needed to overcome all that.”
He had an interest in bespoke tailoring, the art of creating individual patterns and suits for specific customers, and started his own business in 1999.
The materials he uses are precious, sourced from mills in Italy and England. Vanquish, a Dormeuil fabric made in England out of vicuna blended with pashmina, costs Mr. Ely $6,500 a yard. Another favourite of his is Royal Qiviut, a fabric made from Canadian muskox. A suit made from the fabric costs a customer roughly $22,000.
“Bespoke is different from made-to-measure and custom [tailoring],” Mr. Ely explained. “Bespoke is the highest level of crafting the garment. It looks at posture, where man rests his arm. The majority of [competing tailors] do custom and made-to-measure, which has more to do with body size, and not fit.”
Mr. Ely started his business with $50,000 in savings, and credits his success to premium service and slow growth. “When you borrow money, it becomes very difficult if you don’t know how to manage it and you get into debt,” he said. “People want to achieve [growth] really fast, and too much debt is the biggest problem in a small business.”
In the first year, Isaac Ely Bespoke had four clients and his suits were priced at $1,500. Today the suits run from $3,500 to $36,000, his staff has expanded to seven from two, and the business has close to 60 clients. Revenue has grown at an average of 20% annually for the last few years and is close to $500,000 annually.
While men’s fashion has always taken a back seat to a far larger global market for womenswear, the broader menswear market is up this year. Sales of menswear and accessories rose to $4.08-billion in 2010 from $4.03-billion a year earlier, according to Statistics Canada, and 2011 sales of men’s suits and sport coats were up 6.1% by the end of September.
“In major markets around the world right now, we are seeing this ongoing polarization of retail in all categories, and [Isaac Ely Bespoke] speaks to that,” says Anthony Stokan, principal at Toronto-based retail consultancy Anthony Russell and Associates.
“In the mass market, we can pay a lot of lip service to customer service, but really it is about a utilitarian experience where the customer is focused first and foremost on price. Certain people in business have then said, ‘Am I going to blow myself out on [inventory] tonnage, or am I going to go highly specialized?’ So you see a targeting of a very specific [luxury] customer in every single retail category now — you have experts who can customize everything from a television cabinet to one-of-a-kind footwear.”
While the customer service elements of bespoke fashion are critical, the wardrobe is even more important for public figures than it was in the past, he said. “The movers and shakers of the business, entertainment and sports communities want to stand out amidst their peers and they are also part of our pop culture. The time we live in is one of endless new media and social media and the bulk of that is profiling celebrity and high-profile people.”
Mr. Ely says that while the bespoke process is long and specialized and the fabrics are pricey, the most challenging part of the business is courting and nurturing relationships with clients.
“Getting clients and building the relationship, that takes the longest time,” he said, and involves a high level of personalized service, at their homes and offices
Some of the clients Mr. Ely has built relationships with and attends to in Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and New York were courted by the designer for as long as two years.
“Most of my customers, literally, they have no time. For some of them, I look after their entire wardrobe. Sometimes at 10:30 at night, I go see a client.”
While some designers are keen to expand their brand and their fortune through licensing to department stores or fashion chains, Mr. Ely’s chief growth plan involves building the business up to 100 customers and selling them $10,000 a year worth of suits.
“Lots of people talk about being an entrepreneur,” he said. “To be an entrepreneur, every day of work has to be better than yesterday … the style, the fabric, making the garment – you always have to be on to.”