Schettino Concordia
Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino faces charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship (Reuters)

A number of off-duty women were on the bridge of the Costa Concordia when it hit a rock off the island of Giglio, a court has heard.

The Concordia's map official Simone Canessa, appearing at the trial of 'Captain Coward' Francesco Schettino, claimed that Moldovan tour rep Domnica Cemortan was not the only woman on the ship's deck as it crashed.

Schettino has been widely criticised for drinking and dining with Cemortan as his ship veered towards disaster. However Canessa told judges in Grosseto, Tuscany that "some girls, some hostesses" were seen on deck as the tragedy unfolded.

One Italian newspaper, La Nazione, reports the hostesses may have been called onto deck to give emergency instructions to the passengers in different languages.

Canessa also said that Schettino took off his uniform and changed into civilian clothing before abandoning the sinking cruise liner, even though hundreds of passengers were still on board.

Schettino was sporting his captain's ranks when he was on the bridge, but after the impact and the following frantic evacuation he was wearing only a plain blue jacket.

"When I left him [Schettino] was wearing uniform and insignia," Canessa said. "When I saw him again he had put on a blue jacket, a birthday present. Obviously he had changed his clothes; he hadn't got the insignias anymore."

Canessa told the court that Schettino ordered him to change the route in order to sail past the Giglio island, after the Concordia set out from the Italian port of Civitavecchia.

In court, prosecutors played a recording in which Schettino is heard discussing the new itinerary with Canessa.

"Let's go to do a sail-past salute to Giglio," Schettino was heard saying. "We have to pass by the f*****g Giglio, set the route."

Canessa replied: "Captain, half a mile from the port is alright? There is enough depth anyway."

The Concordia eventually hit a reef, took on water and capsized, killing 32 people.

Canessa told the court that Schettino didn't say why he had to perform the sail-past salute. However, according to rumours he heard on board, it was in homage to an inhabitant of the small island or to someone working on the cruise.

In another recording played by prosecutors, Schettino is heard claiming that he was told to sail close to the island's shores by Captain Mario Palombo, his long-time friend and former boss.

"Captian Palombo told me: 'pass by, pass by!'" Schettino was heard as saying after the crash in a phone call with Roberto Ferrarini, an official with the Costa Crociere crisis unit.

"I hit a reef with the stern. I'm gutted, I'm dead, don't say a thing."

Palombo has denied the claim and said he wasn't on Giglio on the night of the incident.

After the impact Schettino hesitated too long to raise the alarm, Canessa told the court.

"I persistently asked Captain Schettino to do something, to declare the [state of] general emergency but he answered to wait, or didn't answer at all," Canessa said.

"He was strolling around while talking on the phone. Then he suddenly stopped, looked at us and said: 'abandon the ship!'

"I told him: 'we have to give the alarm first!'" Canessa added.

Schettino, dubbed 'Captain Coward' in the Italian media, faces up to 20 years in jail on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.

He is the sole defendant on trial and denies the charges. The trial continues.


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Women Concordia Domnica Cemortan
Domnica Cemortan wasn’t the only woman on the bridge of the Costa Concordia as it crashed (Reuters)