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Early this year, the cruise ship Costa Concordia grounded on a reef and partially sank, with the tragic loss of 32 people.

Almost immediately, the disaster was compared the Titanic, and Captain Shettino was compared (highly unfavorably) with Captain Smith.

Perhaps it’s inevitable, especially in the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking.

But is that comparison fair?

 Let’s go to the table, and see just how Captain Shettino compares with his more famous predecessor.

Name                           Edward
Smith                          Francesco
Age                              62                                            52
Ship                             RMS Titanic                            MS Costa Concordia
Employer                     White Star Line                       Costa Cruises
Date of Sinking           April 14, 1912                         January 13, 2012
Dumb Mistake          Going full speed ahead            Steering his ship too close to
through an ice field in              the shore in order to impress
spite of repeated warnings       passengers
from other ships
Dumb Reason            J. Bruce Ismay (head of          Managers of Costa Cruises
White Star Line) allegedly      allegedly told him to
him to
Fate                             Went down with the ship        Exited ship in the middle of rescue
Popular Verdict           Hero                                        Coward

Looking at this table, there really isn’t that much that separates the two captains.

Both did something incredibly dumb.  Both have excuses that their bosses are alleged to have told them to disregard safety precautions.  Both disasters resulted in tragic loss of life.

The difference?

Captain Smith stayed at his post until all the lifeboats were off, staying with his ship until the bitter end, while Captain Schettino left in the middle of rescue operations (he would later assert that he simply fell into a lifeboat), and was infamously ordered by the Italian Coast Guard to “Get on board for ____’s sake!”. 

The moral for all of you aspiring captains out there is simple: if your ship starts sinking, wait until the passengers have been rescued before getting into your lifeboat.

Your Obedient Servant,

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