Cruise captain 'committed errors', say ship's owners

Alan Johnston reports from the island of Giglio on the continuing rescue operation

The company operating a cruise ship that capsized after hitting rocks off western Italy, killing six, says the captain may have "committed errors".

He appears to have sailed too close to land and not to have followed the company's emergency procedures, Costa Crociere said in a statement.

Capt Francesco Schettino is suspected of manslaughter, but denies wrongdoing.

Italy's environment minister said the risk from a potential spill of ship's fuel was extremely high.

Six people are confirmed to have died but about 15 remain unaccounted for. Divers are trying to find more survivors.

"It seems that the commander made errors of judgement that had serious consequences," Costa Crociere said.

"The route followed by the ship turned out to be too close to the coast, and it seems that his decision in handling the emergency didn't follow Costa Crociere's procedures which are in line, and in some cases, go beyond, international standards," the statement added.

Capt Francesco Schettino: "We were last to leave the ship''

The Costa Concordia is lying on its side just metres off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

Capt Schettino has been detained on suspicion of manslaughter. The chief prosecutor said the vessel had "very ineptly got close to Giglio".

But Capt Schettino denied any wrongdoing, saying the rocks it hit were not marked on his nautical chart.

"We should have had deep water beneath us," he told Italian TV. "We were about 300 metres (1,000ft) from the rocks more or less. We shouldn't have hit anything."

He also denied claims by prosecutors that he left the Costa Concordia before evacuation was complete. "We were the last to leave the ship," Capt Schettino said.

Start Quote

A helicopter flies overhead, hovers a moment, and two more rescuers are winched down on to what used to be the side of the ship. It is now its gently sloping upper deck”

End Quote

There have been suggestions in Italian media that he may have steered his vessel close to Giglio in order to put on a show for residents of the island.

The 52-year-old captain has worked for Costa Crociere for 11 years. The company said he joined the company in 2002 as an official in charge of security.

He was made captain in 2006, having been the ship's second-in-command.

Like all captains in the fleet he took part in a continuous programme of training and passed all the required checks, Costa Crociere said.

First officer Ciro Ambrosio has also been detained.

In an interview with La Stampa newspaper, Environment Minister Corrado Clini said a leak of the ship's fuel would be disastrous.

"The vessel has reservoirs full of fuel, it is a heavy diesel which could sink down to the seabed, that would be a disaster," he said.

"As soon as possible, the fuel will be removed from the vessel. But we have to take into account the precarious state of the ship."

Carnival, which owns Costa Crociere, said it expected to lose $95m (£62m; 75m euro) this year for "loss of use" of the ship.

Rising toll

Rescue crews found the body of a male in a corridor of the vessel early on Monday. Officials said he was probably a passenger, based on the type of life jacket he was wearing.

On Sunday, emergency teams recovered the bodies of two elderly men trapped in a flooded section of the partially submerged Costa Concordia.

The Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy - 16 January 2012 Poor weather is hampering the search for survivors

The bodies are being taken to the mainland for identification.

The ship, carrying more than 4,200 people, was on the first night of a Mediterranean cruise when it ran aground in calm conditions.

Poor weather is hampering the search as teams scour the hundreds of submerged cabins and other rooms.

"We are going to all the ship's cabins looking for any signs of life, or people shouting or any noises," said Italian interior ministry spokesman, Francesco Paulo Tronca.

"It's a very difficult operation. We are talking about hundreds and hundreds of cabins on many different decks."

Start Quote

There was panic, like in a film, dishes crashing to the floor, people running, people falling down the stairs”

End Quote Fulvio Rocci Survivor

Three survivors were found on Sunday. Teams working above the waterline rescued an Italian man - a senior member of the ship's crew - who had suffered a severe leg injury.

He was placed on a stretcher and winched up to a rescue helicopter.

Earlier, a Korean couple who were on their honeymoon were discovered trapped in a cabin. They were brought ashore, dazed but unhurt.

Swimming to safety

On Saturday, officials said two French passengers and a Peruvian crew member had died and another 30 people had been injured.

Italian, German, French and British nationals were among the 3,200 passengers on board. There were also 1,000 crew.

On Sunday morning, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News all the Britons - 23 passengers and 12 crew - were now safe and accounted for.

The president of Costa Crociere, Gianni Onorato, said the company would "be working in full transparency with Italian authorities" to understand the causes of the disaster.

Mr Onorato said normal lifeboat evacuation had become "almost impossible" because the ship had listed so quickly. Some passengers had to swim to Giglio.

The survivors have been taken by ferry from Giglio to Porta San Stefano, about 25km (15 miles) away on the mainland.

Some described scenes of chaos, and said the crew had not carried out an evacuation drill by the time disaster struck.

Map

More on This Story

Cruise disaster

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Europe stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.