'I've been painted as worse than bin Laden': Concordia captain speaks

The captain of the Costa Concordia has spoken of his "enormous regret" about the cruise ship disaster and of his resentment at being demonised.

Francesco Schettino said in an interview that he "was painted as worse than bin Laden", but that "the sentiment that characterises the last year is torment for what happened that night. It is sincere pain from the bottom of my heart."

Mr Schettino told the Turin daily La Stampa that the way he was portrayed "ridicules not just 30 years of my work, my experience in the whole world, but also the image of our country, which has been exposed to the criticism, often unjust, of the entire planet".

The Costa Concordia hit rocks off the coast of Giglio on the evening of Jan 13 last year, while sailing too fast and too close to shore in order to perform a ship salute. In the chaos that ensued, 32 people died, hundreds were injured and more than 4,000 passengers and crew were marooned on the tiny Mediterranean island west of Italy, usually home to just 600 residents.

Widely dubbed "captain coward" by the Italian media, Mr Schettino has been accused of multiple manslaughter and abandoning the ship before all the passengers were safely ashore.

The captain, who has said he did not intentionally abandon ship but slipped and fell into a lifeboat when the Concordia rolled on to its side, called for a review of the cruise industry's rules.

"Everyone knows that to salute the island you have to pass by closer to the island. We always did it," he said. "I don't want to point the fingers at others, but that night I was not furnished the exact information. I may have made a mistake, but I was not alone."

Prosecutors announced before Christmas that their 50,000-page investigation was complete and charges would be pressed later this month against eight people, including Mr Schettino.

The court's expert report on the accident noted communication and language problems on board and said Mr Schettino and the Costa Cruises crisis team failed to call an evacuation in time. By the time the command was given, the ship was listing too far for all the lifeboats to be launched.

A day of commemorative events is planned on Giglio for Sunday, the first anniversary of the disaster. Costa Cruises said that its flags would be flown at half mast all over the world. The company also said that Roman Catholic Masses would be held in Genoa, Manila and Lima, as well as Muslim ceremonies in Jakarta and Bali and Hindu ceremonies in Mumbai and Goa.

The Telegraph, London