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Cape Matapan and Costa’s ships

Di Antonio Caneva, 9 Marzo 2012

The battle of Cape Matapan was fought in March 1941 off the southwest coast of the Peloponnese between the Italian Regia Marina and the British Mediterranean Fleet, and it ended with a clear victory for the British, which conditioned the future offensive capacity of the Italian Navy.
Personally, thinking of Cape Matapan takes me back twenty-five years when, on a cruise with my family on Eugenio C. (Costa), we were stuck for two days due to engine breakdown; it was in summer and the sea was calm, therefore, apart from skipping the port of call at Varna on the Black Sea in Bulgaria (which I do not miss), the inconvenience was minimal.
It was a lifetime ago. Costa was still Italian, and, for its cruises, it would renovate and utilise the ships that had once taken emigrants to Latin America and Australia.
The two accidents recently incurred by Costa Crociere ships are obviously not comparable with the story I have just told; now, ships are immense and generally reliable. Had it not been for the wretched manoeuvre by the Captain of Concordia, he ship that was wrecked at the Giglio Island, we would have probably not paid great attention to what happened on Costa Allegra.
A few days ago I visited the website of Royal Caribbean, reporting the details of the ships they have in operation, and the smallest ships are those of the class of Majesty of the Sea, on which I sailed on a cruise in the Caribbean about 15 years ago. At that time, it looked immense to me, with its tonnage of 74,000; now, the two newest ships in operation, Freedom of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, have a tonnage of over 200,000.
Probably the time has come to reconsider this constant race to gigantism, justified by the opportunity to offer increasingly inexpensive prices; the race to low-cost is generating real monsters (albeit alluring) which no longer have any congruity with the infrastructures they have to live with.
We thus witness ruinous consequences such as mega ocean liners transiting the San Marco Basin in Venice, causing pressures on the frail stability of the city. I cannot picture a manoeuvre “Schettino style” in San Marco Square, even if the memory of entering Venice aboard Costa Serena still strikes me as one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
The fact that, during the last ten years, the number of cruise passengers has grown exponentially does not justify such a race to gigantism, as is proven by the decision made by Costa Crociere, after the two accidents, to suspend the planned orders for a number of new cruise ships for themselves and the German subsidiary AIDA. Cruising is a sensitive business which requires large investments and infrastructures; it would be probably wise to revise its model.

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