Owners of stricken vessel admit captain had 'character problem'

Head of Costa Cruises opens door to lawsuits as skipper says he was encouraged to show off

Milan

The legal disaster engulfing the owners of the Costa Concordia liner appeared to be deepening last night following the company's admission that staff were aware of the captain's "character problems" ahead of the accident that claimed up to 32 lives.

The capsized liner's commander, Captain Francesco Schettino, who appears to have fled the vessel ahead of his passengers after crashing it into rocks off the Italian coast 10 days ago, is under house arrest and could be charged with manslaughter. Victims' groups and compensation lawyers are now looking at comments made by the Costa Cruises chief executive, Pier Luigi Foschi, to the Corriere Della Sera newspaper, in which he said: "He [Schettino] may have the odd little character problem, although nothing has ever been reported formally. He was seen as being a little hard on his colleagues. He liked to be in the limelight."

Last night, Carlo Rienzi, the president of Italy's national consumer group Codacons, said: "These comments [by Mr Foschi] will form part of the basis for our class action." Codacons is seeking a minimum of €10,000 (£8,300) compensation for all passengers.

Kendall Carver, president of the US-based International Cruise Victims group, said: "It's astonishing that company officials were aware of these 'character problems' but allowed him to have responsibility for over 4,000 people."

Costa Cruises did not wish to comment while judicial inquiries were underway.

It also emerged yesterday that Mr Schettino has told judicial authorities that Costa encouraged passenger-pleasing close approaches "at Sorrento, Capri and everywhere". Costa has said such manoeuvres would have been done without company knowledge. Mr Foschi said last week: "I can't exclude that ships have been sailed closer to land on the initiative of some captains."

Mr Schettino's claim that Costa officials approved of close approaches has been backed by the ex-Costa commander Mario Palombo. Referring to a 2003 "drive-by" near to where the Costa Concordia is grounded, Mr Palomba said: "We passed very close. Obviously we asked permission."

But more devastating for Costa Cruises are claims by Mr Schettino that he alerted Costa's marine operation's director, Roberto Ferrarini, immediately after hitting the rocks. Mr Schettino told Grosseto's preliminary investigations judge: "I told him [Mr Ferrarini]: 'I've got myself into a mess passing too close to Giglio and we collided'." He said he continued to advise Costa of the situation and called for boats and helicopters to be sent.

Costa Cruises has so far denied it knew of the true gravity of the situation until the abandon ship signal was sounded 76 minutes later, a delay thought to have led to many of the deaths. Rescuers yesterday pulled a woman's body from the ship, taking the confirmed death toll to 13, with 19 listed passengers still unaccounted for.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most