Captain of Costa Concordia detained by prosecutors

Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino was detained on Saturday for questioning by prosecutors, along with First Officer Ciro Ambrosio. Prosecutors reportedly are considering charges that could include manslaughter, abandoning ship before all others, and causing a shipwreck. Italian news agency ANSA says the officers will be detained until a judge decides whether they should be released or formally put under arrest.

In media interviews prior to his detention, Captain Schettino said that the rock struck by the cruise ship was not shown on nautical charts. News reports say that Captain Schettino has insisted that he and First Officer Ambrosio were the "last to leave the ship." That is at variance with the statements of several passengers quoted in the media.

Meantime Carnival Corporation's Costa Crociere today issued a statement that said there "may have been significant human error" on the part of the Captain. You can read the full statement, in Italian, here.

An English version of the Costa statement, published by The Guardian, says, in part:

"We are working with investigators to find out precisely what went wrong aboard the Costa Concordia. While the investigation is ongoing, preliminary indications are that there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship's Master, Captain Francesco Schettino, which resulted in these grave consequences. The route of the vessel appears to have been too close to the shore, and the Captain's judgment in handling the emergency appears to have not followed standard Costa procedures. We are aware that the lead Prosecutor has leveled serious accusations against the ship's Captain, who joined Costa Crociere in 2002 as a Safety Officer and was appointed Captain in 2006, after acting as Staff Captain as well. As all Costa Masters, he has been constantly trained, passing all tests. In light of these accusations and the continuing investigation, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.

"As we are learning more about the event itself and the evacuation, however, it is becoming clear that the crew of the Costa Concordia acted bravely and swiftly to help evacuate more than 4,000 individuals during a very challenging situation. We are very grateful for all they have done.

"Costa is committed to ensuring that no such incident ever occurs again. Our number one priority is always the safety and security of our guests and crew and we comply with all safety regulations. (See background on Costa safety below).

"Background on Costa's commitment to safety

"Costa complies very strictly with all safety regulations and our personnel are committed, first and foremost, to guest safety and security.

"All crew members hold a BST (Basic Safety Training) certificate and are trained and prepared to emergency management and to assist passengers abandoning the ship with numerous drills. Roles, responsibilities and duties are clearly assigned to all crew members. Every two weeks all crew members perform a ship evacuation simulation. A lifeboat and evacuation drill for all guests is conducted within 24 hours of embarking, as required by law. Costa has a computerized system which ensures all passengers undergo this drill.

"The skills of Costa crew are periodically tested by Coast Guard authorities and an independent classification organization as per SMS (Safety Management Systems) requirements.

"There are lifeboats and jackets on board in excess of the number required for all passengers and crew. Lifeboats are equipped with food and water supplies, first aid kits and communication and signaling equipment. All life-saving appliances are aligned to international standards and are subject to close, regular inspection by shipboard personnel and certification authorities. All Costa ships are certified by RINA and have been built to the highest standards and technologies."

Costa also said that Smit has been retained to put antipollution booms around the vessel.

In other developments today, two more bodies were recovered, bringing the total death toll in the tragedy to five.

January 15, 2012