Come closer again, we love you, tourism chiefs tell cruise lines

Tourism chiefs and hotel bosses have asked for cruise ship ''sail-by salutes'' - which became infamous following the Costa Concordia tragedy - to resume.

Officials said the practice should be allowed ''safely and securely'' as it was fundamental to the tourist trade which Italy relies upon, especially in the summer, when it has more than 40 million visitors a year.

In January the cruise liner Costa Concordia capsized after it struck rocks while carrying out a salute. Thirty-two people died, and the captain, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest charged with multiple manslaughter and causing a shipwreck.

The euro 510-million ($670-million) Costa Fascinosa cruise ship.
The euro 510-million ($670-million) Costa Fascinosa cruise ship. Photo: AP

At the time there was outrage when it emerged that cruise ships regularly carried out sail-by salutes, or inchinos as they are known in Italian, for publicity, coming dangerously close to the shoreline in order to promote tourism and cruise holidays.

In the days after the disaster off the island of Giglio, footage emerged of ships sailing close not only to that island but also Procida near Naples and the coast of Sicily - their huge superstructures dwarfing holidaymakers watching from harbour walls and the beach.

Ermando Mennella, the president of the federation of hotel owners of Ischia, a popular holiday island close to Naples, said: ''The inchino should be allowed to continue but obviously with safety and security guaranteed for all.

The deck of new Costa Fascinosa ship.
The deck of new Costa Fascinosa ship. Photo: Reuters

''It is fundamental for tourism especially to an island like Ischia and if it does not continue then it will have severe economic repercussions and cost jobs.''

After the Costa Concordia wreck, the government said the practice would in future be ''limited or banned altogether'' and Ischia's plea comes just two weeks after similar fears were raised by the Riviera resort of Portofino.

Italian maritime regulations state that cruise ships must come no closer than five nautical miles to land. Mr Mennella said: ''The government's justifiable and determined approach following what happened at Giglio should not erase the possibilities that are generated from Italy's maritime patrimony.''

The Costa Fascinosa.
The Costa Fascinosa. Photo: AP

In the days after the disaster the Costa Cruises chairman and chief executive, Pierluigi Foschi, told an Italian parliamentary committee that sail-by salutes do happen with the approval of cruise lines.

Two bodies have still not been recovered from the scene of the Concordia. Next month work will begin on straightening the ship and towing it away in a 12-month project that will cost more than $300 million.

On Saturday Costa Cruises launched its newest ship, the Costa Fascinosa, which with a passenger and crew capacity of 3800 is the largest liner in the Italian fleet. The company also announced new methods for informing passengers about on-board safety as well as a system that allows them to follow in real time the routes of its ships to make sure they are sticking to the allotted route.

Telegraph, London

Comments