Captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner Francesco Schettino
Captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner Francesco Schettino walks in court during his trial in Grosseto.Reuters

The captain of the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship broke down in tears at the last hearing in his trial over the shipwreck that caused 32 deaths, saying his life also ended the night of the incident.

In a final statement before the three-judge panel retired to consider a verdict, Francesco Schettino repeated claims he has been made a scapegoat for the January 2012 accident.

"That 13 January I died too," the 54-year-old seaman told the court in Grosseto, Tuscany.

"I have spent the last three years in a media meat grinder that added to my personal pain for what happened.

"My head was sacrificed to serve economic interests. What I have been living is not life".

The captain claimed the verdict "should have involved an entire organisation" but he was instead the only defendant in the case.

Prosecutors have accused Schettino of being a "reckless idiot" for steering the luxury liner too close to the shores of Giglio Island to perform a sail past salute, eventually hitting a rock.

They asked judges to find him guilty of a series of charges including manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship and sentence him to 26 years and three months in jail.

Lawyers for the captain argued he actually saved lives by manoeuvring the ship closer to the island's shores after the collision and no single person was to blame for the disaster.

They maintained lives were also lost because the evacuation was hampered by a failure of a backup generator and flooding in supposedly water-tight compartments.

Schettino and his legal team also contended that the ship wouldn't have crashed if Jacob Rusli Bin, the Indonesian helmsman, hadn't botched his orders due to language difficulties.

Rusli Bin is one of five employees who made plea bargains in return for mild sentences in a separate proceeding. Lawyers for Costa Crociere have denied the company bore any blame for the shipwreck.

A verdict is expected within hours.