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

Captain Francesco Schettino had already tried to bring the Costa Concordia dangerously close to the shore of Giglio Island a week before the cruise liner crashed into a reef off the Tuscan Islet, a court has heard.

In a fresh first-hand account of the shipwreck that killed 32 people, the Concordia Chief Mate Giovanni Iaccarino, 50, told Grosseto judges that Schettino's first attempt to perform a sail-past salute to the inhabitants of Giglio, was put off by bad weather conditions.

"The sea was rough so the idea was dropped," Iaccarino said.

The Concordia had set out from the Italian port of Civitavecchia for a one-week cruise across the Mediterranean when it hit a rock, took on water and capsized in January 2012.

A prosecution witness at the trial against his former captain, Iaccarino said the sail-past salute wasn't a planned manoeuvre.

"The sail-past was not in the programme communicated to passengers but was decided that very evening," Iaccarino said.

The salute was reportedly meant to be homage to a retired captain living on the Giglio Island.

Iaccarino said he was playing PlayStation with a colleague in his cabin, when they sensed the ship veering left and then abruptly right.

"Then we felt strong vibrations and I understood we had crashed or got beached," he said.

Iaccarino said he went up to the bridge and witnessed Schettino realising the scale of the damage.

"I looked at the control panel and it was all red flashing lights," Iaccarino said. "Schettino tore his hair out and said: 'what a mess'".

Schettino, dubbed 'Captain Coward' in the Italian media, was in court as he faced charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.

He allegedly got off the ship as it sank, while hundreds of passengers were still stranded on board.

Iaccarino said Schettino was in shock and looked confused in the moments after the impact.

"I had never seen him in that mental state. He seemed completely lost, shocked," Iaccarino told the court.

At an earlier hearing Schettino blamed the Concordia's Indonesian helmsman, Jacob Rusli Bin, for the disaster.

Schettino said that, due to language difficulties, Rusli Bin did not understand his order to steer left, as the captain realised the ship was too close to shore, but mistakenly turned right instead.

The court's maritime expert confirmed Rusli Bin made the mistake, but said the ship would have crashed regardless.

Rusli Bin is one of five Costa Crociere employees who were granted plea bargains in return for mild sentences in a separate proceeding.

Schettino is the sole defendant on trial and denies the charges. He faces up to 20 years in jail.