“I spoke out concerning the ‘salutes’, and they got rid of me”

Genoa - Enrico Gianni Scerni was the president of RINA, the shipping register association, four days after the Costa Concordia ran aground, he was forced to resign by C.E.O.


Genoa - Enrico Gianni Scerni was the president of RINA, the shipping register association which issues the certifications for 1,800 ships. But in 2012, four days after the Costa Concordia ran aground, he was forced to resign by C.E.O. Ugo Salerno and the company lawyer, who had been his own lawyer for 30 years, Alberto Alberti. The reason was an interview that Scerni gave in which he said that the companies knew that ships left their routes for scenic sails along the coast and even sail-by salutes. The two went into his office, spoke a bit, then the lawyer dictated to Scerni’s secretary a letter for his immediate resignation from the presidency of the company. The story is one of the toughest that has come out of the trial on the Costa Concordia shipwreck, and it casts light on a background which has remained a mystery for two years now. “I resigned after making a statement in which I said that it was impossible for shipowners not to know” about the routes near the coasts, he said as a witness today in court in Grosseto, “but it is an understatement to say that I decided to resign: the C.E.O. of RINA and the lawyer for the Board of Directors dictated the letter to my secretary.” The lawyers for the prosecution asked him if he had been forced to sign it. His answer was, “I was not forced, but persuaded, shall we say.” It was January 17th, 2012 (ed. the shipwreck occurred on the 13th). “After a press conference given by the president of Costa Crociere, Pierluigi Foschi, (ed. on January 16th, 2012),” Scerni recalled, “I told a newspaper that this so-called touristic sailing close to the coast often occurred as a deviation from the planned route.” He also said, “I said that what happened at Giglio wasn’t the first time that a ship, not necessarily a Costa SpA ship, or the captain of a ship, deviated from the planned route, and that the shipowner very likely knew about it, or at least afterwards it would be very unlikely for the shipowner not to know.” The same day, “I met with RINA’s top management, with C.E.O. Ugo Salerno and the lawyer Alberto Alberti who told me that this statement had caused reactions from other shipowners who were saying that RINA wasn’t protecting their interests by making such a statement. And then they asked me to resign and the lawyer dictated the letter.” RINA is one of the global shipping registers which issues certifications of the characteristics of ships. In his deposition, Scerni described the shipowners as “clients” who, if they are unhappy, could take their business to other registers. Scerni’s testimony has brought attention to the practice of sailing near the coast. The prosecutor on the case requested another lower profile witness, Mamiliana Rossi, who is the mother of Maitre Antonello Tievoli, who was the one who asked Schettino to sail the ship right by Giglio as a gesture to his family members on the island. “I was always happy to see any ship that my son Antonello Tievoli was on that was passing by Giglio, I would look out the window and I knew he was on board,” the witness said. “I spoke to Antonello first by mobile phone and he told me, on the very night of the shipwreck he told me, ‘I’ll be passing by this time,’ then after that I didn’t hear from him again, and the rest is history.” In today’s hearing the magistrates rejected the request from Schettino’s defence to nullify the proceedings because the case required excessive sums in reproduction fees, about €40,000 for digital media: “The defendant’s objection is absolutely generic,” explained the magistrates, “since no act is affected by a motion to dismiss.” An analogous request from Codacons [i.e. the plaintiff] for the suspension of the proceedings over the same issue also failed. As expected, the trial is going forward. The next hearing is scheduled from June 30th to July 4th, with experts and consultants to conduct an intense questioning on pending technical matters.