19 Jan 2012

Italian cruise ship captain 'turned too late'

10:03 pm on 19 January 2012

Italian media are reporting the captain of the capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia has admitted making a navigation mistake.

According to a leaked interrogation transcript, Captain Francesco Schettino told investigators he had ordered a turn too late as the luxury ship sailed close to the island of Giglo off Italy's west coast on Friday night.

At least 11 of the 4200 passengers and crew on board died after the

114,500-tonne vessel hit rocks, ripping part of its hull open before keeling over.

More than 20 people are still missing, but the search for survivors has been halted after the ship moved on Wednesday, the BBC reports.

According to the transcript quoted by Italian media, Captain Schettino said the route of the Costa Concordia on the first day of its Mediterranean cruise had been decided as it left the port of Civitavecchia near Rome on Friday.

The 52-year-old reportedly told the investigating judge that he had decided to sail close to Giglio to salute a former captain who had a home on the Tuscan island.

"I was navigating by sight because I knew the depths well and I had done this manoeuvre three or four times," he reportedly said.

"But this time I ordered the turn too late and I ended up in water that was too shallow. I don't know why it happened."

The ship's owners, Costa Crociere, said earlier this week that the change of route had not been authorised.

The captain is under house arrest on suspicion of multiple manslaughter. Prosecutors have also accused him of fleeing the ship before the evacuation was complete.

A recording of a call between him and a port official after the crash appears to support this, though Captain Schettino denies the claims.

On Tuesday, his lawyer said the captain had told the judge that lives had been saved thanks to the manoeuvre he made after the ship hit rocks.