CEO says the captain made an “unapproved, unauthorised manoeuvre" and sailed the ship “too close to the coast”

The captain of Costa Concordia has been blamed for crashing and sinking a cruise ship, killing at least six passengers, this weekend.

The 290m vessel began sinking after she crashed into rocks on Friday night. Captain Francesco Schettino caused the accident by making an “unapproved, unauthorised” move away from the planned course, the CEO of Costa Cruises said today.  

The captain has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and abandoning ship but he denies any wrongdoing.

Capt Schettino said the ship, which weighs more than 114,000 tonnes, crashed into unchartered rocks. He told the Italian media on Sunday: “I firmly believe that the rocks weren’t detected. I don’t know if it was detected or not, but on the nautical chart it was marked at about 100 – 150m from the rocks and we were about 300m from the shore.”

“This route was put in correctly,” said Pier Luigi Foschi, CEO of Costa Cruises. “The fact that it left from this course is due solely to a manoeuvre by the commander that was unapproved, unauthorised and unknown to Costa.”

“The captain gravely underestimated the gravity of the situation,” added Filippo Marini, port authority spokesman.

Six bodies have been recovered, with 15 people still missing but dangerous conditions have forced rescuers to abandon the search.

The incident has raised serious questions about safety procedures after it emerged that the 4,200 passengers hadn’t been shown the evacuation process. International rules state passengers must practice the evacuation drill within 24 hours of leaving port; Costa Concordia crashed and began sinking in less than three hours.

It’s feared that the sinking ship could spark an environmental disaster if the 2,500 tonnes of fuel within the vessel leak in to the ocean.

Photo by Motor Boats Monthly.

Read more stories about the cruise ship tragedy in Italy:
Search continues for missing cruise ship passengers

Fatalities in Italy cruise ship crash