The captain of the capsized Costa Concordia luxury liner has been given a 16-year prison sentence for manslaughter for his role in a 2012 shipwreck near an Italian island.

Francesco Schettino broke down and could not finish his statement to the three-judge panel immediately before it retired to begin deliberations on Wednesday's verdict.

He had told the court trying him for 32 shipwreck deaths that his "head was sacrificed" to safeguard economic interests.

Schettino had been accused of manslaughter, causing the shipwreck and abandoning the Costa Concordia while many of the 4,200 passengers and crew were still aboard.

Investigators severely criticised his handling of the disaster, accusing him of bringing the 290 metre-long vessel too close to shore when it struck rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio, tearing a hole in its side and setting off a chaotic night evacuation of passengers and crew.

Schettino had also been accused of delaying evacuation and losing control of the operation during which he abandoned ship before all the 4,200 passengers and crew had been rescued.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 26 years in prison for Schettino, who had admitted some responsibility as captain of the ship but denied blame for the deaths that occurred during the evacuation.

He was left alone in the dock to answer for the disaster after the ship's owners Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp, paid a $1.13m fine to settle and prosecutors accepted plea bargains from five other officials.

Lawyers for Schettino appealed to the court to consider malfunctioning equipment and mistakes by other crew when it began deliberations.

Donato Laino, one of the lawyers, contended that prosecutors built their case "around one person, not the facts".

Source: Agencies