Crew member: Gian Filippo Zichele
Task: Third Officer
Statement n. 1:
accident on 12th April 1966
Gian Filippo Zichele writes:
thank very much Mr.
Paolo Serravalle (Genoa) for these
translations to English.
Mr. G. F. Zichele relates:
"I completely agree on the witness of Capt. Claudio Suttora and in
particular when he says “it was just a wave”, but I wish to add some details
more. Like an officer subordinated to the 1st Officer mr. Luigi Ascheri,
during the 2nd watch duty (h.8-12 AM) I did alternate checking of port side
radar and the ship bearing by means of LORAN instrument.
About at h.9.40 the port side radar had a failure probably caused by hard
vibrations and shocks. This fault maybe saved my life or, at least, avoided
me heavy injuries. I alerted Capt. Ascheri about radar fault then I called
the Chief Electric Engineer who quickly reached me on the upper bridge. We
checked all radar functions and we realized the necessity to change over an
electronic card. So I went to a front window observing the sailors team
working on upperdeck. They were keeping a covering on air vents of winches
motors damaged by sea strokes. In the meanwhile the Electric Engineer (C.M.
Antonio Miraglia) was awaiting for spare part sit on the Nautical Room sofa.
I was side-by-side to the Master Capt. Soletti, when, being returned the
upperdeck sailors repair team, he gave the order “Slow down to 120 RPM”. On
the bridge we had two RPM meters, one for each screw. The Master said me “
Alert me when we reach 120 RPM”. When I were sure of RPM meters indication,
I said him “120 RPM! ” . In that moment Master Soletti ordered to the
steersman to re-head the ship on 240° course, previously kept and well
tolerated by the ship. Heading 240° were reached at h.10.20.
Due to the heading change, about at h.10.35, I decided to come back in
Nautical Room to fix a ship position by means of LORAN instrument. While I
was aligning LORAN signals on cathodic rays tube display the ship bow arose
a gigantic wave, pointing down, after sinking, into a second wave probably
higher than the previous one, a real water wall, I saw it just a little
before it smashed against the bridge windows. I saw this enormous wave
because the pitching angle were so strong to force me to get hold quickly
the LORAN cabinet handles so I instinctively looked outside. The windows I
could see hold out the water stroke , instead, on the port side, out of my
sight (hidden by the radars shelter walls) a throw of glass splinters and a
waterfall hit the Chart Room desk where was the Capt. Suttora miraculously
uninjured. The officer observing starboard radar were defenced from water
and splinters throwing by the obscuring curtains that were wrenched out of
rails. The officer did remain wrapped in the torn curtains for some time.
The water impact fortunately were more light in that point.
While all alarms was sounding I found myself with water at my knees, the
water did flow away through the port wheelhouse sliding door pulled out of
The astern wall of radar room were broken-down and pushed against a second
after wall at about 5 feet distance. The violence of the stroke was clear: a
series of solid brass coat-hanger were completely deformed. Due to the radar
failure I wasn’t in in that place and this saved me.
The radar cabinet and the nearest wall were struck and damaged by broken
windows frames. Checking the gyro-compass we realized a 10 deg. difference
vs. magnetic compass.
Since that moment I were busy with phone calls. I remember the first one
from the fore boatswain-locker where several paint cans was fallen and upset.
We had more serious troubles! Unfortunately another call informed me about
two deceased passengers. I hung up the phone and I said to Master Soletti
“They have found two dead passengers”. In that moment no further words were
The restless life during following days have been descripted by Capt.
Suttora. We had a few of relax only we arrived at New York harbor. Here I
was charged with forming a team to interdict access to the struck area to
every-body else. During temporary repairs operations we had a principle of
fire aboard; an oil soaked “Marinite” insulating panel were lighted by an
oxyacetylenic flame. The oil was becoming from watertight doors plant broken
pipes. The fire were quickly fought by our Firemen team. When the N.Y.C.
Firemen Dept. Team arrived on board the flame was already extinguished.
After the temporary fitting of a large steel plate we did return to Genoa
where the Michelangelo was repaired. The fore light-alloy framing had been
replaced with a new steel framing. The same modify was carried out on the
twin ship Raffaello too.
Since a certain time I read on the web reports, studies and researches about
According to my opinion the waves are no other than oceanic waves. What is
changed sailing the sea are the ships structures and the necessity to follow
fast routes to avoid expences increase".
Rome, January 2009
Statement n. 2:
Collision near Algesiras with Norwegian tanker “Cuyahoga”,
19 may, 1970
My watch duty was 00.00 to 04.00, under 1st Officer mr. Villa. At h.03.30,
passed abeam Point Europa, the ship was entering the haven of Gibraltar, I
had been replaced on the radar routing tracing by the 2nd Officer mr. Costa
who was supporting on upper bridge for arrival. Being closed the
Spain-Gibraltar frontier we had to call at Algeciras.
After recording the crossing of Point Europa on both nautical chart and
sailing log, I came back on port wing to fix another ship fixpoint. The
night was wonderful with clear moonlight, many ships was riding at anchors
with all lit lights, a group of fishing boats with lit “lampare” (fishing
lights) was between us and the other ships.
The city of Gibraltar, her harbor and her piers were completely lighted. In
the meantime the speed had been reduced to “Slow ahead”. Due to all these
lights I did try to find with my binocular at least one of the lights of the
harbor entrance piers. Looking at that direction I saw a steady red light
that could belong to a moving ship. In the flaring lights I had the feeling
of a ship dark silhouette too. Recorded only Point Europa, while I was going
to Nautical room I advised the Master Capt. Oneto about this feeling.
He surely listened to my words and I went to the Nautical Room to record the
Quickly I got out Nautical Room going to the port side wing and I did
observe the bearing compass. Someone confirmed me the presence of a moving
ship, now well visible. Being my duty, I did start to follow the ship with
the graphometer spelling loud and clearly “Bearing 352°!”, her white
masthead light was well visible. Then I screamed twice “She doesn’t
deviate!”, in other words the ship was on collision route.
In the meantime I heard the Master’s voice ordering “Stop engines!” and then
“Full Astern, three long whistles!”.
In the flaring lights I saw that the ship was a tanker proceeding at
medium-high speed, her wake was well visible and was turning at her
starboard signalling her manoeuvre with a whistle.
At h.03.38 with Raffaello almost standstill the unavoidable collision
happened. I remember a light jump and then two very light rollings.
Being the other ship a tanker our first care were the risk of fire or worst,
an explosion. Fortunately this facts didn’t happened.
To identify it and in case of rescue we began to call the other ship with
our VHF transceiver. Gibraltar traffic control tower replied us having
contacted the unknown ship that resulted a norwegian tanker named “Cuyahoga”.
We had some doubts about our manoeuvres, I asked myself “what could happens
if I didn’t see the red port light? Soon our doubts were resolved. With a
simulation it were calculated the point of impact located between
central-aft sections of Raffaello. In these sectors there were crew and
passengers cabins where at h.03.38 they was all sleeping in their beds. This
with heavier consequences than the fore damage as shown by photographs.
About collision, due to a press agencies strike, no notices were received in
Italy. I informed my family during a phone call. Finally I wish to add that
the collision happened in port waters where m/t Cuyahoga should have been
Rome, January 2009