Costa Concordia black box contents to be revealed in hearing

The Costa Concordia cruise ship lies on its side as workers continue salvage operations
CBS News

(CBS News) A preliminary hearing began Monday in the case of the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that capsized off the Italian coast last January, killing 32 people.

The proceedings are based on evidence from the ship's black box recordings. Documents before the court run to 270 pages, including navigational details and conversations on the bridge of the Costa Concordia.

More than 100 lawyers representing survivors and the families of the passengers and crew who died in the Costa Concordia have shown up for the hearing in Grosseto, Italy. Their target is not the captain, but the American owners of the cruise line.

Peter Ronai's 10 clients are asking for $200 million. Ronai said, "What we want to make very clear here is that this accident was not the cause of the collision. The accident was caused by an avalanche of negligence."

Pictures: Luxury cruise ship runs aground
Pictures: Inside the Costa Concordia wreck

A $300 million salvage operation is underway to pull the liner off the rocks where it is lodged. The chunk of the reef the ship hit has now been removed from the hull. It weighed in at 95 tons. Once the hulk is re-floated, it will be towed away and almost certainly scrapped.

Capt. Francesco Schettino is accused of causing the accident by bringing his ship too close to shore to "salute" the island, which he maintains was company policy.

When he finally decided to order an evacuation, the captain abandoned his ship. And in spite of being ordered back aboard by the Coast Guard, insisted he was "co-coordinating the rescue" from a lifeboat, and ended up ashore before many of his passengers.

The salvage operation is now a tourist attraction, but not the kind the people of Giglio Island need.

Mayor of Giglio Sergio Ortelli said, "In this last summertime, we were 30 percent of tourists less, because in the tourists' minds remains the Costa Concordia crisis."

The salvage operation is scheduled to take 260 more days, but that depends on the weather, and in winter, the seas around Giglio are often subject to violent storms. And even so, the wreck of the Costa Concordia will likely be gone long before the court cases are over.

Proceedings were suspended for a while Monday while the court considered objections from Schettino's lawyers about evidence on who was at the wheel at the time the ship struck the reef. Lawyers for the families are complaining about having to pay for transcripts of the evidence.

For more on this story, watch Allen Pizzey's report in the video above.