Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Presents: Cruise to Disaster
Aired July 14, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DAN RIVERS, CNN PRESENTS HOST: Friday, the 13th of January. Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia has just left the port of Civitavecchia. The more than 4,000 passenger and crew onboard had no idea of the terror that was about to unfold.
DEAN ANANIAS, CONCORDIA PASSENGER: And all of a sudden, bang. The lights went out. And the ship listed.
VALERIE ANANIAS, CONCORDIA PASSENGER: The side of the ship is now the bottom of the ship.
HECTOR PEREZ, CONCORDIA PASSENGER: Everybody was panicking. Everybody was running for their own lives.
SOHAIM KHAN, CONCORDIA PASSENGER: It showed the kind of chaos, the ill preparedness the company had.
GEORGIA ANANIAS, CONCORDIA PASSENGER: And I can remember thinking oh, my gosh, we're going to die. Let's just get it over with.
RIVERS: Today, the Costa Concordia lies on its side off the Italian island of Giglio. One of the largest cruise ships in the world, ripped apart by rocks. Thirty-two people died on the ship on that cold January night.
(INAUDIBLE) has pieced together the multiple failures of that and their far-reaching consequences for the cruise ship lines. The tragic mistakes onboard the Costa Concordia raised the question, just how safe is going on a cruise?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The safety of our passengers and crew is absolutely essential to our business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bigger they build those boats the more likely people are not going to be able to escape when they have a serious incident.
RIVERS: One hundred years after the Titanic, the cruise industry is once again coming to terms with a disaster that no one thought was possible. The Titanic ushered in a new era of regulation at sea. Now many are wondering if the Costa Concordia shows these cruise ships are too big, too complex, and the rules of the sea are simply too old.
Georgia Ananias and her husband Dean are cruise veterans. They've been on more than 60. For their cruise on the Concordia, the San Diego couple were joined by their daughters Valerie and Cindy. CINDY ANANIAS, CONCORDIA PASSENGER: I've been going on cruises since I was, like, a year old.
RIVERS: For Hector Perez and Sohaim Khan, it was their first trip to Europe and their first cruise. They embarked at Barcelona but they weren't impressed by the safety briefing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lift the life jacket over your head.
PEREZ: They showed you the life vest, things like that. But we never went through the physical procedure of which deck or how to get to your muster station.
RIVERS: For the Ananias family, this cruise didn't feel right from the very beginning.
V. ANANIAS: We didn't really have direction from any of the representatives.
RIVERS: The Costa line is part of the biggest cruise company in the world. The Florida-based Carnival Corporation.
The captain of the Concordia, 51-year-old Francesco Schettino, known for his seamanship, but is also regarded by some colleagues as arrogant.
On their first night at sea the Ananias family gathered for dinner soon after 9:00.
D. ANANIAS: There was a vibration. I thought, oh well, it's probably slowing down. Then I told Valerie, I said look at the glasses. Out glasses started to tilt. It's starting to make a hard turn to the starboard.
RIVERS: Captain Schettino himself had been in the restaurant a short time earlier in the company of a young Moldovan woman, Domnica Cemortan. Then he took her up to the bridge. His attorney, Bruno Leporatti, insists Schettino was not distracted.
BRUNO LEPORATTI, CAPTAIN SCHETTINO'S LAWYER (Through Translator): Her presence had no influence at all. And she wasn't on the bridge in the sense of the place where the ship is managed. She was very far back.
RIVERS: Schettino is under house arrest and not allowed to give interviews. The captain had promised a salute to the island. A cruise line custom of sailing very close to land to show off the ship to the people ashore. It was a custom Giglio residents had come to expect.
Concordia safety officer Martino Pellegrino later told investigators that First Officer Ciro Ambrosio had ordered the helmsman to turn away from the island. But then --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Schettino relieved Ambrosio of his duty and taking on himself directly the navigation command ordered the helmsman to keep the route and increase speed. RIVERS: The Concordia was traveling at some 15 knots, too fast so close to the shore.
Giorgio Moretti, Costa's nautical operations manager.
GIORGIO MORETTI, COSTA'S NAUTICAL OPERATIONS MANAGER: Sometimes we pass close to land, of course. But for me, close is one mile, 1 1/2 miles.
RIVERS: The Concordia was much closer than that. Simona Santini, a singer on Costa ships for over 10 years, was in the rumba with musician/husband Alesandro Capelli.
SIMONA SANTINI, CONCORDIA PASSENGER: It was a normal night. The band was playing and at 9:40 p.m., we feel a movement. Not a crash. A movement.
D. ANANIAS: And all of a sudden, bang. And the lights went out. And the screaming. And the ship lifted. People got up when the lights went out. They panicked. They were running, They were falling all over the floors and so forth.
D. ANANIAS: Kahn and Perez were on the Roma restaurant on a lower deck.
PEREZ: The plates that were on tables with wheels, they started rolling to the side and the waiters, they just ran towards the plates because they were falling against the walls and they were breaking on the floor.
KHAN: I ran and there was a worker over there who stood at the doorway and he just blocked it like this. He said calm down, calm down. Just go back, go back. I was surprised that he was telling me to go back in the room, which is falling apart.
KHAN: Miles from its chartered course, the Concordia's port side was ripped open. Schettino later insisted the reef he hit wasn't marked.
CAPTAIN FRANCESCO SCHETTINO, COSTA CONCORDIA (Through Translator): I don't know if it was detected or not, but on the nautical chart it was marked just as water at some 100 to 150 meters from the rocks. And we were about 300 meters from the shore, more or less. We shouldn't have had this contact.
RIVERS: Locals told CNN (INAUDIBLE) the rocks Concordia hit are clearly marked on nautical charts.
Every rock here is on the chart?
ALDO BAFIGI, LOCAL DIVER: Every one, every one. That's why I think should be the only possibility should be only that one.
RIVERS: Such was the force of the collision. A huge chunk of rock the size of a car ended up embedded in the hull of the Concordia. Within moments, the engine room director reported the engine control room and the electrical panel were under six feet of water. But the severity of the situation was kept from passengers.
KHAN: Everything is all right. Please do not panic. Go back to your room. It's OK. It's just a motor problems and the technicians are trying to fix it. And a lot of people were not believing them. But there were a good majority of people who actually believed them, listened to them, and went back to their rooms.
RIVERS: But within an hour, passengers would be fighting the rising waters, desperate to escape the doomed Costa Concordia.
RIVERS: The second the Costa Concordia hit the rocks, water rushed into a gash about the width of a football field. The ship lost power. Its pumps didn't work. And neither did the computer designed to calculate the ship's stability.
This video was taken on the bridge in the minutes after the collision. The crew rushed to maintain control of the ship as five supposedly watertight compartments rapidly filled with water. According to data obtained by CNN, more than 6,000 tons of water entered the ship in less than 20 minutes. Third Officer Sylvia Coronica was on the bridge.
THIRD OFFICER SILVIA CORONICA, COSTA CONCORDIA (Through Translator): In a few minutes we realized that the situation was serious as three generators were not working, the navigation system was not working and neither was the emergency board.
RIVERS: Yes, amid the ship's systematic failures, Captain Schettino downplayed the situation.
SAFETY OFFICER MARTIO PELLEGRINO, COSTA CONCORDIA (Through Translator): The captain told the cruise director to make calming announcements, that it was an electrical problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please remain calm and we'll keep you informed as we have more news to inform you. Thank you for your attention.
RIVERS: Some passengers didn't believe it.
C. ANANIAS: Why would the boat start tilting to the side if it's electrical? From the beginning, they're lying.
RIVERS: As the crisis unfolded, many of the rules for handling emergencies at sea appeared to have been ignored.
G. ANANIAS: No one knew anything. There was no direction. And you know we had not a muster drill so we didn't know which one was our, you know, station.
RIVERS: The ship's lifeboats were on deck four but when the Ananias family arrived there were no life vests left. The parents had to crawl two floors back to their cabin where they grabbed three life jackets. Hector Perez and Sohaim Khan were also on deck four. KHAN: And luckily he find two life jackets that were actually lying around on the life -- on the deck. When we put it on we didn't know how to strap it, what to do, how to tie it on, nothing. Because we were taught in the training.
RIVERS: Plus a crew member blocked them from getting on the lifeboats.
PEREZ: He kept on telling me, we need to wait for the instructions from the captain. The captain has not given us the orders therefore I cannot open the door of this boat.
RIVERS: Costa's Giorgio Moretti said the Concordia's crew members followed company policy.
MORETTI: Well, according to the training we give to our crew members, if you don't sound the emergency signals, they do nothing. They just wait.
RIVERS: Captain Schettino made a series of calls, as many as 17, but what he said is a matter of bitter dispute. His lawyer insists he hid something.
LEPORATTI (Through Translator): Captain Schettino immediately, promptly informed the company of what happened and kept it constantly informed.
RIVERS: Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi claims otherwise.
PIER LUIGI FOSCHI, COSTA CEO: The first information which we have say absolutely contrary to that. It says the information he received from Captain Schettino didn't sound as serious indeed, at the end it was.
RIVERS: Authorities were first notified of the incident not by the crew but from cell phones calls from passengers at least half an hour after the collision.
A few minutes later, Coast Guard headquarters here in Rome were alerted. Information started flooding into these computers, but the more they learned, the more worried they became.
COMMANDER COSIMO NICASTRO, ITALIAN COAST GUARD: They didn't call. We called them. We called them twice.
RIVERS: Coast Guard commander Cosimo Nicastro says the Coast Guard was forced to reach out to the rapidly sinking ship.
NICASTRO: So we called the ship and the ship that there was just a blackout on board. They don't say that there was an emergency.
RIVERS: Costa executives acknowledge this was a major mistake.
MORETTI: If I'm the captain of the ship, and you need help, you have to call the right people, the right person, and the Coast Guard, in that case, was the right place to call to receive any immediate help.
RIVERS: The Concordia continued north, losing speed, before turning toward the south and moving slowly toward the coastline.
The scene on the deck was chaotic as the ship began to list heavily.
G. ANANIAS: Screaming, yelling, people pushing, angry, sliding, falling, crying.
RIVERS: On the bridge, there was still hesitation about sounding the alarm. At 10:48 p.m., one hour after Concordia's crash, Schettino finally sounded the general alarm, which officially ordered passengers to emergency stations. That delay is now the focus of an Italian judicial inquiry. Besides the captain, as many as eight other crew members and Costa managers face possible criminal charges.
Sounding the emergency alarm as early as possible can be critical for saving lives. According to Professor Ed Galea, a maritime safety specialist the University of Greenwich in London.
PROF. ED GALEA, MARITIME SAFETY SPECIALIST, UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH, LONDON: Moving thousands of passengers around the ship in an emergency situation is never an easy thing to do. And so you want to start that process, the assembly process, as soon as you suspect that there is a major problem with the vessel.
V. ANANIAS: It was way too long, way too long. And they would have saved so many lives if they would have done it a lot earlier.
RIVERS: Schettino told investigators he delayed the alarm until he could maneuver the ship close to shore.
LEPORATTI (Through Translator): He has always said the ship was located there because he made a choice to order the abandonment when he considered the coast close enough for rescue boats.
RIVERS: Schettino also said he didn't want to create panic, but that's exactly what happened.
G. ANANIAS: Pushing, it was people knocking people down. And we kept yelling, put the kids on first. Get the kids on --
G. ANANIAS: Get the kids on first.
RIVERS: Moments after the ship came to rest at Punta Gabbianara, the first lifeboats were launched. It was 11:00 p.m. But then the Concordia rolled more than 20 degrees. For the Ananias family and others, escaping just became a lot harder.
RIVERS: When the order to abandon ship was given, Hector Perez and Sohaim Khan were at a lifeboat. The crewmember who barred access to the boat told passengers to calm down.
PEREZ: As soon as he opened the door, everybody ran towards that emergency boats and pushed him out of the away. Everybody was panicking. Everybody was running for their own lives.
And the ship right now is totally leaning to one side.
RIVERS: This cell phone video shot by Hector Perez has never been seen before on television. He shot it as they boarded the lifeboat. It had seats for 150 people.
PEREZ: A lot of them didn't realize that they were going to let people jump into the boat without an actual seat. Those that realized it, they jumped into the boat and they just stayed standing in the boat. It was way over the 150 people limit.
RIVERS: The boat carrying Khan and Perez made it to the sea, but even then they were not safe.
PEREZ: I look up and I see the emergency boat A, it goes sideways, one way. Suddenly it went this way again and it fell right on top of our boat.
KHAN: If our boat would have turned when we were evacuating and the second boat fell on us, we would have been dead.
RIVERS: Several lifeboats couldn't be lowered and with the ship listing, the problems of evacuating people multiplied.
The Ananias family boarded a lifeboat but were forced to return to the ship when the lifeboat wouldn't launch. Once back on board --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bam, the boat flips.
D. ANANIAS: It takes another five-degree roll to the starboard side.
RIVERS: One of the crew told investigators that some officers literally pushed passengers into the water. But the Ananias family turned around and tried to climb across the ship with nothing to hold on to.
V. ANANIAS: The side of the ship is now the bottom of the ship. So you're literally walking on the side of the ship.
RIVERS: The speed with which the Concordia tilted, first, one way and then the other has alarmed maritime experts.
This is the "Safety of Life at Sea" rulebook, the maritime safety bible, if you like, issued by the International Maritime Authority here in London. It specifies that ships should remain stable with two watertight compartments flooded and they should be able to be evacuated within 30 minutes.
But the loss of power, the flooding of the pumps and backup generators had turned the Concordia into a helpless hulk. As the water continue to rise, the ship tilted yet further, more than 60 degrees.
G. ANANIAS: And then I remember us all starting to pray and saying our goodbyes. And I can remember thinking oh, my gosh, we're going to die. Let's just get it over with. RIVERS: While the Ananias family prayed, Captain Schettino was leaving the stricken liner. He said later he'd fallen into a lifeboat as the ship suddenly listed. A claim his lawyer subsequently modified.
LEPORATTI (Through Translator): So Captain Schettino exited the ship as all the others who were located on that side at that time existed. Because it was impossible to stay there and impossible to climb up. Because it was a nearly vertical wall. There was no voluntary abandon ship. Captain Schettino is not captain coward.
RIVERS: By now, it was nearly 1:00 in the morning. The Ananias family and dozens of other passengers were still trying to climb a metal ladder to reach the outside of the ship but it was still a mad scramble to escape.
D. ANANIAS: Men pushing women aside, pushing children aside.
V. ANANIAS: I slowed down, I said, this is not going to happen. I'm not going to sit here and watch one other man jump in front of this mother and child to get his way up there. It wasn't going to happen.
RIVERS: The Ananias family would be among the last to escape the Concordia alive. Jumping 10 feet into a moving lifeboat and even then feeling they were on their own.
D. ANANIAS: Nothing, they just said -- they (INAUDIBLE) close as possible, they just told us to jump. That was it.
RIVERS: Months later, Georgia Ananias and her family believe their experience on the Concordia is a wake-up call. For the entire industry.
G. ANANIAS: I really feel for passengers getting on board a ship. Yes, they say it's safe and it's the best way to go, but you know, you get in a disaster like this and you see what happens and you see how unprepared they are, passengers really need to be aware.
RIVERS: And on that, at least rare agreement with Captain Schettino's lawyer.
LEPORATTI (Through Translator): I would be astonished if the industry said something true, which would perhaps be good to say about its own organizational systems about why maybe there could be safety problems. The fact is, everyone is comfortable having a scapegoat, especially the industry.
RIVERS: An industry under scrutiny because of tragic mistakes that raised the troubling question -- will you be safe as your cruise heads out to sea?
RIVERS: Immediately after the Concordia disaster, Captain Francisco Schettino became a target for media around the world, especially when a caustic call between the captain and the Coast Guard was released, showing the Coast Guard ordering the captain back on ship.
Costa executives like Norbert Stickerman, the vice president of marketing insist the company was blameless given Captain Schettino's actions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just like an airline captain who's going to land in Paris, flying 100 meters over the Eiffel Tower. You can do it, but nobody is expecting a captain to be so, you know, irresponsible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chances of something happening to somebody are so much greater simply because of the compassion.
RIVERS: But U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller who chaired a hearing into the cruise industry weeks after the disaster says the company bares responsibility.
SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: The cruise ship is the captain, right? I mean, he didn't wander in on his own and start turning the wheel or whatever it is, pushing buttons. The company is the captain. The captain is the company.
RIVERS: Costa and some other lines have made changes since the Concordia disaster. Current regulations say there must be an assembly drill within 24 hours of embarkation.
Know those are held before a ship leaves port. But that wasn't the case with the Costa Concordia. Hector Perez said safety officers went so far as to encourage passengers to ignore the lecture all together.
HECTOR PEREZ, CONCORDIA PASSENGER: He told everybody that we were all adults here. That we came here to have fun, to go spend money at the casino, there were nice restaurants, to go to the restaurants and basically just place your red emergency drill cards in front of the table and he will scan them on your way out.
RIVERS: Just last week CLIA, the largest industry lobbying group and its European counterpart announced changes in the way ships would handle emergencies.
Passengers will be given 12 specific instructions including how to don a life jacket, where to gather in an emergency, and what to expect if an evacuation is ordered.
Some cruise lines are also beginning to look at the way the bridge is managed. As cruise ships have taken on more passengers and more size, the captain's responsibilities have grown proportionally.
The Costa's CEO says other officers need to be given more authority onboard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to learn from this tragic accident and we have to move more towards a collective management of the bridge through training. RIVERS: But European officials tell CNN they are deeply concerned by a shortage of qualified junior officers throughout the industry. There are concerns about the support staff as well.
Many of the service crew members are contract workers. They have little job security, often earn less than $1,000 a month and many don't speak English.
Costa insists on its ships, there is rigorous training for every member of the crew and they generally have a higher pay scale.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are checked by inspection from the Italian Coast Guard.
RIVERS: Singer, Simona Santini said her fellow crew members on the Concordia were well trained.
SIMONA SANTINI, SINGER, COSTA CONCORDIA: We have every day in the morning and in the afternoon for ten days the drill every day. Every day with a trainer for, I don't know, for example, fire, or for the leaking or the emergency, for everything that would happen onboard.
RIVERS: But many of the passengers who fought for their lives say the company was as much to blame as its captain.
GEORGIA ANANIAS, CONCORDIA PASSENGER: Hiring people that aren't trained, hiring people that don't know what they're doing, not anticipating disaster, not taking life seriously onboard the cruise ship.
RIVERS: The cruise industry is reviewing crew train and a practice known as touristic navigation, sailing close to land.
NORBERT STICKEMAN, EXECUTIVE V.P. OF MARKETING, COSTA CROCLERE: You sort of salute the island and move away. It has happened five or six times, but it's totally regulated. You don't come as close as the Costa Concordia went.
RIVERS: But should it continue? Just six months earlier, the Concordia with a different captain followed an almost identical course. Costa insists it was never closer than 550 yards to the shore.
But using tracking data, the shipping publication, "Lloyd's List" found the earlier voyage shown here in blue was just 250 yards from colliding with the same rocks.
International regulation requires the airline industry to track every movement of the each plane, but there are no similar worldwide guidelines for the cruise industry.
Italy's Coast Guard only monitors ships in areas with the highest shipping accident. Soon after the accident, Costa showed us the system used to display its ships.
At the time of the crash, Costa's tracking system was unable to provide minute-by-minute location data for the ship. Since then, Costa has upgraded their tracking technology, but questions still remain.
(on camera): I suppose the family of the victims would say why on earth wasn't this introduced 20 years ago? The GPS technology has been around for a long time.
PIER LUIGI FOSCHI, CEO, COSTA CROCLERE: I'm not sure about 20 years ago.
RIVERS: OK, 10 years.
FOSCHI: I think that's a legitimate question for the family of the victims. Again, it's unfortunate we have to learn from tragedy, but at least morally, we have to take this and do whatever is possible today based on technology and knowledge and go forward.
RIVERS (voice-over): The wreck has also highlighted the size of today's cruise ships. The Costa Concordia was almost three times the weight of the "Titanic" and much larger. Most experts say the size of modern cruise ships don't affect the structural stability unless the structural integrity of the ship is compromised.
Philip Wilson, professor of Ship Dynamics at the University of South Hampton.
PHILIP WILSON, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHHAMPTON: The center of gravity is in the right place. Center of buoyancy is in the right place. Halfway down the draft of the ship.
RIVERS: But once water enters a ship.
WILSON: If you try to hold a frying pan filled with water and move it, it becomes unstable very quickly. It's a free surface effect. It's the same with a ship.
RIVERS: But the larger a ship is, the more difficult it is to evacuate.
ED GALEA, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH: So it might mean you might have to have more assembly stations, you might have to locate the assembly stations in different locations.
RIVERS: And with bigger ships and more passengers, traditional lifeboats might not be adequate.
GALEA: If a ship takes on an angle here of greater than 20 degrees, it becomes virtually impossible to launch lifeboats using the traditional launch approach.
There are skids on the side, but perhaps a better way of launching those lifeboats that would enable the boats to more easily slide down the side of the vessel.
RIVERS: But the question remains -- will the cruise ship industry put your safety before their bottom line? ROCKEFELLER: It's not sometimes just a matter of doing what the law says but doing what you think is appropriate. Do you think you're doing your fair share?
RIVERS: In the weeks and months after the Costa Concordia disaster, many passengers reported signs of trauma.
PEREZ: The first month was hell for me. Almost every night I was having nightmares, especially of the deck as I was waiting there a few hours, waiting to get in. Sometimes I dream with my family that we're all running for our lives.
RIVERS: But the fine print of the passengers' tickets severely limits compensation offered by Costa.
SOHAIM KHAN, CONCORDIA PASSENGER: There's a huge page, actually two pages. It's like a newspaper.
PEREZ: I lost everything on that boat. I lost laptops, cameras, memories. They offered me 11,000 euros. And that was supposed to release them from everything and anything that has to do with this accident. I cannot ask for more than this.
RIVERS: The 11,000 euros, about $14,000 is the minimum compensation under international law when the ship is abandoned.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were condescending. They were rude.
RIVERS: The Ananias family got a call several weeks after the disaster.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They called us Sunday morning at 5:00 in the morning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Offered 30 percent off the next cruise. And then they started harassing us. They started harassing us, three, four, five, six phone calls a day wanting to talk about settling.
RIVERS: Costa officials deny they offered a discounted cruise as compensation. The Ananias family were also offered 11,000 euros.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were forced to do that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't out of the goodness of their heart let's put it that way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. And what put the passengers at a disadvantage is they have a very, very tight contract. They have limitations to what they'll pay in the death of a person. RIVERS: That limit is $71,000 for death or injury as spelled out in an international convention. But many experts believe Costa can pay more than $71,000 in this instance. James Walker, a maritime lawyer says any potential cruise ship passenger needs to examine the terms and conditions listed on the ticket.
JAMES WALKER, MARITIME LAWYER: There are a number of surprises, if not outright shocks contained in the fine legal print of the legal mum bow jumbo. The cruise lines have had their defense lawyers draft every conceivable protection of the cruise line to limit the ability of injured passengers to pursue their remedies.
RIVERS: Such contracts make it very difficult to bring a lawsuit in an American court where compensation would likely be much higher, even if the ship is American owned.
That hasn't stopped a flood of lawsuits, including some brought by crew members. But Costa's CEO says lawsuits from crew members represent a tiny minority.
STICKEMAN: The 95 percent of the crew have accepted compensation, but more importantly for us, most of them, 95 percent has already indicated they want to come back and work for Costa.
RIVERS: Costa estimates 1/3 of passengers are taking legal action.
STICKEMAN: We believe we are fair, we believe we did whatever was possible and impossible to assist the family of the people who are deceased, to provide psychological assistance.
ROCKEFELLER: Reports of the survivors of Costa Concordia do not inspire confidence.
RIVERS: Senator Rockefeller was highly critical of the industry at a hearing in March when he clashed with the CEO of the Cruise Line's International Association.
ROCKEFELLER: Carnival actually paid no U.S. corporate taxes at the all in 2011. Do you have a comment on that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Again, I can only say --
ROCKEFELLER: You're here representing your industry. Do you think that's right -- if I'm right, do you think that that's right if that happened?
CHRISTINE DUFFY, CEO, CRUISE LINES INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION: I think it's appropriate that the cruise industry pay their taxes based on the current laws.
ROCKEFELLER: I think the cruise ships are getting away with a lot and they're not paying taxes. And their ships are registered in other countries where they can, you know, get cheaper labor. They play virtually no taxes in this country.
RIVERS: Carnival is incorporated in Panama, and Princess Cruises in Bermuda, even though their headquarters are in Florida, a source of contention for Rockefeller.
From 2004 to 2011, Carnival paid just 1.1 percent in federal, state and foreign taxes, yet recorded $11.3 billion in profits. The member of the Cruise Line Association says all lines have to follow the international rule of the sea, but he concedes there are tax advantages of registering outside of the United States.
(on camera): Are there some fees and taxation considerations that go into that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, we pay a wide array of fees, duties and we pay all of the taxes that we are required to pay.
RIVERS: Of all commercial cruise ships, only one, Norwegian's pride of America, is registered in the United States. Carnival ships are registered in several countries.
The Costa cruise line for instance pay flies an Italian flag and pays Italian taxes accordingly, a corporate rate of about 30 percent. Rockefeller says the industry is piloting their boats through legal loopholes.
ROCKEFELLER: They don't pay taxes, which would help these 20 federal agencies, which are watching over them. They always say safety is their emphasis. I never quite believed that. I think the bottom line is their emphasis.
RIVERS: Finances aside, the question looming after the Concordia disaster, is the cruise line taking safety seriously.
(on camera): Did it take the deaths of 33 people onboard to prompt you to take action?
RIVERS (voice-over): The cruise industry has expanded fast worldwide seeking out new markets in Asia and Europe. The U.S. industry says it's created more than 300,000 jobs and claims there were just 28 fatalities related to operational incidents in the last decade, a figure some critics debate.
But whatever the true number of casualties, the industry continues to have safety problems. Just when you think things can't get any worse for Costa, a mere six weeks after the Concordia crash, a fire disabled the engine of the Costa Allegra, leaving the ship without power on the Indian Ocean for three days.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was extremely black smoke so we knew something was going to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most horrify experience I've ever had.
RIVERS: And industry insiders say many incidents at sea don't even get reported.
(on camera): From its headquarters on the banks of the (inaudible) here in London, the International Maritime Organization a U.N. body, has the job of overseeing the international law of the sea.
(voice-over): Since the Concordia disaster, the IMO has issued some new proposals, including additional life jackets in public areas, better communication of emergency instructions, and muster drills before the ship departs.
But at the moment, they are simply recommendations. A point I put to the IMO secretary general.
(on camera): These interim measures are voluntary. They're not mandatory. Shouldn't you be saying to the shipping industry, you have to do this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We take our action based on the result of the casualty report. We are expecting to receive casualty investigation probably over this summer. While it is necessary, I'm sure the committee will take robust action.
RIVERS: So basically this could become mandatory after November when you have the report?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't imagine that.
RIVERS: Some of the Concordia's last passengers want a much faster and tougher approach.
GEORGIA ANANIAS, CONCORDIA PASSENGER: There needs to be an overhauling of how this industry operates. They lobby hard. They're paying bucks, buying people off.
RIVERS: The Cruise Lines International Association based in America spends almost $10 million on lobbying between 2007 and 2011. That does not include campaign contributions made by industry owners and operators.
ROCKEFELLER: They're kind of in a world of their own.
RIVERS: Senator Rockefeller said the industries' political clout will make it harder to tighten regulation and close tax loopholes.
ROCKEFELLER: It will be a fight because of incredible number of lobbyists they have and the enormous amount of money they make.
RIVERS: The industry governing body defends its methodical approach to changing cruise line standards.
(on camera): I suppose families of the victims would say why is the IMO only now taking action after a tragedy. Did it take the deaths of 32 people onboard to prompt you to take action?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot avoid sometimes some casualties. This is actually the fact of life. The important thing is we have to respond quickly. And ensure the safety and rebuild confidence of the safety by the public.
RIVERS: Meanwhile, the Italian investigators will issue their report later this year. Its conclusions may affect the many lawsuits against Costa and its parent Florida-based Carnival.
Of those onboard that night, Samona Santini and her husband have gone back to work, still haunted by memories of January 13.
(ON CAMERA): Some of your friends of the crew did not make it off?
SANTINI: Yes, the drummer of the band and the violinist.
RIVERS (voice-over): The violinist drowned after he tried to help children put on their life jackets. And as for Captain Schettino, his trial on manslaughter charges is yet to begin.
BRUNO LEPORATTI, ATTORNEY (through translator): I think he's completely grief stricken over the loss of human life. His life has been destroyed in every aspect.
FUSCHI: I keep asking the question why.
RIVERS: The Costa CEO Fuschi is retiring after the shadow of the Costa Concordia disaster.
FUSCHI: It's the most painful thing to happen to my life after the death of my mother.
RIVERS: But Costa is confident in its future. Four months after the disaster, it's launched a new liner.
After a brief lull in bookings, a new global marketing campaign is under way.
FUSCHI: From a booking standpoint, the reservations we are receiving, we are very much encouraged.
PEREZ: They cannot remove everything they have done, everything they have affected.
RIVERS: Like Perez and many other passengers and crew, the Ananias family is suing for negligence. After some 60 cruises, the family can't imagine taking another.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We won't get on another cruise, any of us, until there's changes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing is good enough to give up the chance of losing your life.
RIVERS (on camera): It will take more than a year to salvage the wreck of the Costa Concordia. For now, the giant liner lies silently here, a shocking testament to the consequences of human error.
It's said that all maritime laws are written in the blood of past disasters. And the Costa Concordia has thrown up so many questions about safety at sea, questions that remain unanswered.