Gian Filippo Zichele (en)

Reports from the crew members

Gian Filippo Zichele

(Third Officer – Roma)

Gian Filippo Zichele (left) and Claudio Suttora (right)

Crew member: Gian Filippo Zichele
Mansione: Third Officer

Statement n. 1
Liner: Michelangelo
Event: accident on 12th April 1966

Statement n. 2
Liner: Raffaello
Event: Collision near Algesiras with Norwegian tanker “Cuyahoga”, 19 may, 1970

Statement n. 1

“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 its rails.
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 necessary.
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 anomalous billows.
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
Liner: Raffaello 
Event: 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 ship fixpoint.
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 running slower.

Rome, January 2009

We thank very much Mr. Paolo Serravalle (Genoa) for these translations to English.