Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Two ex-employees paint picture of sleaze, molestation and drug abuse on Costa vessels.

As if things weren’t bad enough for Costa Cruises, the Costa Concordia investigations now underway have seen accusations of sleaze and drug abuse made against senior officers on Costa vessels- including Captain Schettino of the Concordia- that go back at least two years. 

At least two ex employees of Costa have told prosecutors in Italy that Captain Francesco Schettino and other senior officers took drugs and molested female staff members. A nurse- identified only as Valentina B, has accused Captain Schettino of being a big part of the racket, claiming that he regularly 'used women as goods to be bartered with.’ Valentina says she saw Schettino’s behaviour first hand on another liner, the Atlantica, when she sailed with him in January-February 2010.

'Do not tell me it’s my word against them (sic) - I saw directly with my own eyes senior officers take cocaine,” she alleged, adding, 'I found corruption, prostitution and drugs. Valentina says that conditions were very bad for the crew on board, and that she left because she was being threatened. 'Crewmembers were reduced to virtual slaves by the officers,' she says, adding that Costa still owes her money.

Valentina’s claims have come shortly after Schettino’s hair tested positive for cocaine in a routine test. He is denying all charges of taking alcohol or drugs, and is demanding a re-testing. 

Another ex employee, identified only as Mary G, had a similar tale to tell about Costa. 'The crew and officers are very superficial when it comes to dealing with an emergency. I only worked for Costa for two months in 2010 but a lot of the time officers and crew were drunk. At parties a lot of the time, we would ask ourselves ‘If there is an emergency who is going to save the ship?’ 

Mary G says she was assaulted by a drugged crewmember and is now going to court. 'I was also molested by a crew member at a lunch once after he had taken drugs. They made me sign doctored work sheets and time sheets. I am taking action against them and it will be in court soon,' she said.

Capt. Schettino is already facing charges of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship when passengers were still onboard and failing to communicate with maritime authorities. The Costa Concordia is lying partially submerged just outside Giglio harbour while salvage experts try to pump out more than 500,000 gallons of fuel from her tanks.

Meanwhile, Costa Cruises has said that they have a very strict drug and alcohol policy in place. Without reacting to the allegations of the two ex employees, Costa’s statement says, “It is not allowed in any way to bring on board, possess, trade or use narcotics, drugs or psychotropic drugs. On board our ships there are strict safety and surveillance measures concerning drugs possession’. Costa says that immediate disciplinary action is taken if required.

As for alcohol, Costa says 'It is not allowed to consume alcohol in quantity that can impair the capacity to perform the on board duties. The crew must abstain from the use of alcoholic beverages at least 4 hours before the start of their shift.'

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