Costa Concordia captain 'plotted fatal sail past for days'

Francesco Schettino was in court to hear statements

The captain of the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship had been plotting his fatal "sail past" of the island of Giglio for days, a court has heard.

The Italian court was also told that after steering the 114,000 tonne vessel into the island's rocky coast, Francesco Schettino failed to give clear instructions to officials after they discovered sea water flooding the engines through a tear in the hull.

Schettino is on trial facing charges of manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship for his role in the capsizing of the Costa Concordia in January 2012 during which 32 passengers and crew drowned. He was in court in Grosseto on Monday to hear statements from engine room officer Giovanni Iaccarino.

"Schettino wanted to sail very close to Giglio the week before," he said.

"It wasn't possible because the weather wasn't right, the sea was too rough and the idea was abandoned."

The following week conditions were better, and Schettino decided to risk the sail past, a manoeuvre used by captains to impress passengers and show off seamanship. Schettino did not warn passengers of the event, or inform the ship's owner, Costa Crociere, that he was attempting the manoeuvre, said Iaccarino.

"The route was planned that night, it was not in the official programmes," he said.

Iaccarino said he was off-duty playing Playstation when the ship struck the rock, causing a huge impact and making his possessions fall from shelves.

Heading for the engine room, he found the first three diesel generators and the ship's electrical generators flooded.

"Inside me I had the feeling the ship was lost," he said, adding that he communicated the state of the engine room to Schettino through an official.

As he discovered the other three diesel generators were flooded, there was a blackout, leaving on emergency lighting, he said.

In addition to hearing testimony from Iaccarino, the court also watched an earlier court-ordered video interview with him, in which he said he continued to hear "calming" announcements from the bridge as he watched the water rise up through the ship.

"Then I saw the captain (as he climbed up the bridge) who put his hands in his hair and said 'I have made a mess'." Iaccorino is the first of over 1,000 witnesses due to be called in the trial, which is set to last for months.

One witness due to be called by the prosecution is Domnica Cermontan, the Moldovan dancer who was invited on to the bridge on the night of the sail past by Schettino.

She was due in court on Tuesday, but has been excused because her child is unwell.

After 20 months lying on its side in shallow water off the Tuscan island of Giglio, the Costa Concordia was righted last month, part of a €600 million operation to float it off to a scrap yard on the Italian mainland.