Europe's biggest cruise operator Costa Crociere may have failed to act promptly in the Costa Concordia disaster, according to a pre-trial report that still heaped much of the blame on the ship's captain.
The report, which was leaked in the Italian press on Thursday, was commissioned by the judge investigating the tragedy which claimed 32 lives when the giant ship with 4229 people on board hit rocks on January 13.
Nine people are under investigation for the shipwreck off the island of Giglio, including captain Francesco Schettino and three Costa executives.
One of the three executives is Roberto Ferrarini, Costa's fleet crisis coordinator, who was in regular contact with Schettino that night.
The report said Ferrarini "did not appear to have the real pulse of the conditions on the ship" despite having all the important information at his disposal after it hit the rocks, an extract from the report said.
The experts said that after Ferrarini was informed by the captain that three compartments were flooded "he should have promptly suggested to the captain to abandon the ship because its stability had been compromised."
The order finally came almost half an hour after Ferrarini was informed.
Costa Crociere said in a statement that "the law provides that in the event of an accident, the obligation to inform the authorities is up to the captain.
"The communication made by the master to the crisis department were on the whole not timely, partial and confused, not allowing it to scale a clear perception of the seriousness of what was actually happening," it added.
It also rejected a claim in the report that crew members were unprepared for emergencies, saying that alleged defects in the certifications of some of the crew "concern only a few components not key in emergency management."
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The report also highlighted the language barrier between crew members, particularly between the captain and the Indonesian helmsman who at one point before the crash appeared to veer to the right despite being told to go left.
The report quoted the captain urging the helmsman to be more careful after one order that was misunderstood, adding: "Otherwise we go on the rocks".
The research was based on black box data, recordings of conversations on board and an analysis of nautical maps and the actual route of the ship.
Schettino still appears to carry most of the blame according to the report, firstly for performing a risky "salute" manoeuvre close to Giglio and then by delaying the order to abandon the ship until more than an hour after the crash.
Schettino is also accused of leaving the ship while hundreds of people still had to be evacuated. The report undermined his claim that his actions after the crash saved lives, saying that the beaching of the ship was fortuitous.
The next pre-trial hearing in the case is scheduled for October 15.
Lawyers for local authorities on Giglio meanwhile said Thursday they had made an official request for damages from Costa Crociere, although they said no final figure could be established until the ship's salvage was complete.
"We made a formal request for damages today. The damage began on that night of January 13 and is continuing now with the work around the wreck of the ship. They are defending their island," lawyer Alessandro Lecci told AFP.
Giglio island is already registered as an injured party in the trial.