According to today's Telegraph, the chief prosecutor in charge of the inquiry has implored investigators to look beyond the behaviour of the captain to the role played by the liner's owners, Costa Cruises.

His comments were published as salvage experts began the difficult task of removing around 2,400 tonnes of fuel from the vessel.

Beniamino Deidda, the prosecutor, said in an interview carried by several Italian newspapers today: "For the moment, attention is generally concentrated on the responsibility of the captain, who showed himself to be tragically inadequate. But who chooses the captain?"

He said investigators needed to avert their gaze to the decisions taken by "the employer; that is to say, the ship's owner".

Deidda, who has spent a large part of his career dealing with health and safety cases, said numerous other issues needed to be addressed.

He specifically mentioned "lifeboats that did not come down, crew who did not know what to do [and] scant preparation in crisis management".

He added that it was "absurd" that in at least one instance, recorded on video after the Costa Concordia was holed, a member of the crew should have told passengers to return to their cabins.

Schettino has also maintained that his employers have a shared responsibility for what happened. Among the questions the inquiry is seeking to answer is why more than an hour elapsed between impact and the order to abandon ship.

Questioned by prosecutors last week, the captain said that he was in frequent contact with a representative of the company during that period.

Schettino and his first officer are the sole formal suspects in the inquiry, which is looking at whether to bring charges of manslaughter and the illegal abandoning of a ship.

On Monday, islanders reported seeing a large fuel slick in the waters off Giglio, which are protected as a marine nature reserve. The fuel, however, is thought by the authorities to have come from the initial impact with a cluster of rocks just south of the port of Giglio.

The official co-ordinating operations on the island said on Monday there was still no evidence that fuel had leaked from the Costa Concordia's tanks.