Francesco Schettino Costa Concordia Trial
Costa Concordia's captain Francesco Schettino attends his trial in a local theatre in Grosseto GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images

The Costa Concordia cruise ship captain has accused his former crew of behaving like students on a school trip during the shipwreck that killed 32 people in 2012, as he gave testimony on the tragedy in court.

Francesco Schettino also told judges that he steered the liner too close to the Giglio Island, eventually hitting a rock, as a treat to passengers and to do a favour to a crewmember.

The captain is the sole defendant being tried in the Tuscan city of Grosseto on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. He said that in the moments before the impact, officials on the bridge should have warned him of the impending danger but instead remained silent.

"One of the officials should have said: 'captain we are on the rocks!' but they remained silent instead," he said, denying he was distracted during the approach to the island.

"The general silence deceived me," he said. "I wasn't leading a group of schoolchildren."

Answering prosecutors who asked why he brought the Concordia so close to the shore he replied that he "wanted to kill three birds with one stone", using the equivalent Italian expression "to catch three pigeons with one broad bean".

Schettino claimed that he decided to perform the sail-past-salute to the Island to pay homage to a retired commander living there and please the cruise maître Antonello Tievoli, a Giglio native.

"We also did it for commercial reasons, so that people from the island could take photos [of the ship] and passengers could see the island," he told the court.

Schettino denied the manoeuvre was meant to impress Domnica Cemortan, a Moldovan dancer he had brought to the bridge, and who admitted she was his lover at earlier hearings.

Schettino denies abandoning the ship. His defence team maintains he is being made a scapegoat and actually saved lives by manoeuvring the ship closer to the island's shores after the collision and no single person is to blame for hitting the rock.

Schettino claims that the evacuation was hampered because of a failure of a backup generator and flooding in supposedly water-tight compartments.

He has also maintained that the ship wouldn't have crashed if Jacob Rusli Bin, the Indonesian helmsman, had followed his orders.

The captain and his legal team contend that, due to language difficulties, the helmsman did not understand Schettino's order to steer left, as the ship was too close to shore and veered right instead.

Rusli Bin is one of five employees who made plea bargains in return for mild sentences in a separate proceeding.

If convicted, Scehttino faces up to 20 years in jail.