On Risk and the Costa Concordia

Mulling, here, on risk and the complexity and pace of change . . . and while a fuller piece takes shape, here’s a quick look at a very traditional disaster. The tragicomic story of the Costa Concordia.

At 110,000 tonnes one of the largest ships ever built, she’s lying on her side off an Italian island as divers risk their lives retrieving the bodies of vacationers who died in abject terror as their captain – to judge by reports – behaved like a character in Monty Python.

But what shall we question? The tomfoolery of a cruise-past to impress friends ashore and imperil the entire enterprise? The equal idiocy of the company’s writing immediately to all 3,200 survivors, each suffering some degree of post-traumatic stress, to offer them 30% off their next trip?

Or the maritime regime that permits these vast craft to be built to standards that leave them, quite literally, as susceptible as Henry VIII’s Mary Rose when water gets inside their hulls – in an age of nanomaterials and, well, buoyancy bags? And which fails to require the kind of guidance system that would make being holed by rocks effectively impossible, whatever the crew may have in mind – which could presumably be powered by an app on the first mate’s iPhone. Good heavens, Google is driving cars round the western states with no driver. We can’t interface maritime charts, GPS, and the engine room?