First media interview ... Francesco Schettino.

First media interview ... Francesco Schettino. Photo: AP

The captain of the Costa Concordia admitted to his superiors "I f-----" up in the moments after the cruise liner slammed into a rocky shoal.

The audio recording undermines his attempts to pin the blame for the disaster on a junior officer.

Evidence gathered from the black box data recorder appears to contradict his insistence that he was not in charge of the ship when it smashed into the rocky outcrop off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

Sank ... the Costa Concordia cruise ship.

Sank ... the Costa Concordia cruise ship. Photo: AFP

In his first media interview since the disaster, Francesco Schettino insisted on Tuesday that he was not in command of the cruise ship when it careered into the reef on January 13, tearing a huge gash in its hull and leading to the deaths of 32 people, including a five-year-old girl.

He had dinner with friends, including an ex-dancer from Moldova, then went up on to the bridge, he said.

"I went up to the bridge. I ordered the navigation to be manual, and I didn't have the command. The navigation was being directed by another officer," Mr Schettino said.

But the black box showed that the captain disabled the automatic pilot and took control of the ship at 9.39pm that night - six minutes before the collision at 9.45pm.

He allegedly veered off the ship's agreed route, steering the Concordia perilously close to Giglio so that he could perform a "salute" or sail-past for the benefit of a former colleague on the island. The recordings, obtained by the Corriere della Sera newspaper, revealed the panic and drama on the bridge.

"Our a--- is dragging along the seabed!" an unidentified officer yelled. A few moments later Mr Schettino asked: "What did we hit?" to which an unidentified officer replied: "The reef."

Another officer said: "It was the salute that he wanted," an apparent reference to the sail-past that the captain had agreed to perform. At 9.56pm Mr Schettino telephoned Roberto Ferrarini, an officer who was on duty in the emergency unit of Costa Cruises, the Genoa-based company that owns the Concordia. "Roberto, I f----- up!" he said, according to the transcript. "Look, I'm dying here, don't tell me anything." The black box data will be presented to a judge at a hearing on July 21.

Mr Schettino is under investigation for multiple counts of manslaughter, abandoning the ship before it had been fully evacuated and failing to communicate properly with the maritime authorities.

American and Italian salvage experts are in the process of trying to refloat the Concordia, after which it will be towed to a port and broken up for scrap.

The Daily Telegraph, London