With the recent sentencing of Franceso Schettino – master of the ill-fated Costa Concordia – to 16 years in prison, calls for stiffer penalties came quickly, decisively, and strangely specifically, from his fellow maritime captains.
“He should go to a very small jail with poor plumbing and no air conditioning in a very warm place for the rest of his great-grandchildren’s lives, and the only news he should receive there should be the daily low temperature forecasted for Spitsbergen, Norway.” Said one Captain, Master Bjorg Jorgensen of the M/V Maersk Maersk Maersk Etc.
“16 years is what people get for chewing gum in Singapore.” Added another master who wished to remain anonymous. “This man sunk a cruise ship while showing off for his girlfriend, tried to hide this fact for as long as you can hide a 70m hole in a boat and then when he discovered that wasn’t very long, abandoned ship leaving behind hundreds of confused passengers and crew on a heavily listing vessel in the dark. 32 of whom never made it to safety. 16 years in prison? He should be made to have small speakers surgically imbedded in his ears that play the sound of his vessel’s general alarm being rung for the rest of his life in staggered increments that he never gets used to and makes him jump every time it sounds.”
Considering the nature of the incident, and that there is audio tape of Schettino being ordered back onboard the sinking vessel by the Italian coastguard, it isn’t surprising that there exists manifest anger towards this man in the public eye. What is striking is that in cursory and anecdotal research, The General Alarm was unable to find any sympathy for him amongst his own kind, the masters of the oceans, and lakes, and ports, and bathtubs. Anyone who has ever held the helm of a vessel, or has looked at a picture of someone holding a helm and imagined what that would be like, is united: lock him away and throw the key in the chart table organizer.
“Look, the man’s actions were foolish in the extreme, and cost lives.” Expounds Captain Jorgensen, “So of course I think he should be punished. But beyond that, every time the incident comes up in conversation with my crew, I can feel them looking at me and thinking ‘I wonder if this guy here would hop in a life boat while I was three decks below water trying to squeeze my pelvis through a submerged porthole in an attempt to swim to the surface. And so I feel that if I say things like, ‘Schettino has the spine of a calcium-deficient jellyfish that was raised in a small closet under the stairs,’ and that he should be imprisoned for the rest of his life and then his bones should be individually imprisoned in little tiny jails made individually for each bone, that my saying these things will relay a message to my crew. And that message is, ‘Don’t worry, this guy here won’t get you killed or at least if I do I will be right there with you. And that is important for them to know.”
Many other captain’s agree that they have felt it important to distance themselves from this poor example of a masters role in the demise of a vessel, and then deplorable effort in mustering an abandon ship action. “The media calls him Captain Schettino. My crew knows me as Captain Jones.” Said another master reached for comment. “So right there we are sharing half a name, and from that it is only a small leap for my crew to begin picturing our boat lying on its side and me shouting over the radio that I fell into a lifeboat and I’m not going back. I think it’s best to nip those thoughts in the bud, and I find the best way to do that is to name horrible punishments that befit the crime as a way of showing that I am not like this guy. Because why would I say he should be banned from the water to the extent that he never bathes again and only drinks cola for the rest of his life, if I thought I might also end up doing what he did?”
On a sadly funny note, the hapless Italian captain’s name appears to have entered the common vernacular as a word describing someone who engages in showboating behaviour and then runs away when it all goes bad. The term ‘Schettinoed’ was recently used by a BBC political commentator when referring to the trend of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, and a prominent family blogger in the U.S. categorized the spectacle of prominent Republican leaders denying the importance of vaccinations as a ‘total Schett-show’.