Survivors protest on Costa Concordia shipwreck anniversary

ROME (AFP) - Survivors of the Costa Concordia shipwreck staged a protest on Monday on the second anniversary of the tragedy outside the trial of the luxury liner's captain, saying more blame should be put on the ship's owner Costa Crociere, Italian media reported.

A few dozen protesters rallied in Grosseto in Tuscany, near the courtroom where Francesco Schettino is on trial for manslaughter and allegedly abandoning the ship before all the passengers had been evacuated.

"There is a lack of security on these ships. This trial is showing that the emergency systems that should have guaranteed passenger safety did not work," Massimiliano Gabrielli, a lawyer representing some of the survivors, was quoted by the ANSA news agency as saying.

Schettino, who was not present at Monday's hearing in Grosseto, said in a written message that he felt "an indelible pain" over the disaster and was in a state of "profound mourning".

The captain is the only person on trial for the wreck.

Five others - four crew members and Roberto Ferrarini, the head of Costa Crociere's crisis unit - have negotiated plea bargains of up to 34 months in prison.

Costa Crociere, Europe's biggest cruise operator, has accepted limited responsibility as the employer of Schettino and the convicted crew members and has been ordered to pay a fine of one million euros (S$1.7 million).

The island of Giglio, where the giant ship crashed on the night of Jan 13, 2012, held a commemorative mass, and the sirens of local fishing boats will be sounded at the exact time of the impact at 2045 GMT.

The Costa Concordia struck rocks just off the shore as it steered close to the coast in a risky salute manoeuvre with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board.

The wreck, which was turned upright in September, is to be re-floated and towed away by June in the biggest salvage operation of a passenger ship ever attempted.