Cruise ship captain blamed manager

The captain of the stricken Costa Concordia liner told a friend the day after the disaster that a manager from the cruise company pressured him to sail too close to shore, Italian media have reported.

Francesco Schettino told a friend he was following the advice of a manager about what route to take, saying "pass through there, pass through there," media reported, quoting a call secretly recorded by police the day after the January 13 shipwreck that killed at least 16 people.

"In my place, another would not have been so ready to pass there, but they got to me with their 'Pass through there, pass through there'," Schettino said.

"The rocks were there, but the instruments I had weren't showing them, so I went through," he said.

Schettino then reportedly said he thought he was about 450 metres away, but the ship hit a rock.

"So, here we are and it's me who's paying for everything," he said.

The luxury liner capsized off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio with more than 4,000 people on board. Sixteen people are still unaccounted for.

Schettino told another friend on the phone that he had "done something foolish" in approaching the coast as he had, adding that the gash torn in the side of the boat was "enormous" after it struck a rocky outcrop.

Contrary to witness reports that he had appeared unable to make a decision after the accident occurred, and was late giving the order to abandon ship, Schettino said that he had "acted with the maximum professionalism."

He added that he deserved credit for the fact that "I managed to save everyone, except them (the victims)."

Schettino, who has also been accused of fleeing the stricken ship before his passengers were safe, did not say when he had left the Costa Concordia but did tell his interlocutor that he had left it "when it began to list."

Several witnesses were cited in the press Tuesday saying that the captain had wanted to sail by the island's coast as a kind of salute to a former captain of the ship who lives there for three months every year and for the benefit of a crew member who lives there.

Schettino and first officer Ciro Ambrosio are so far the people facing charges, including negligent homicide, over the disaster.

Schettino has been under house arrest since January 17.

- AFP

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