The Costa Concordia disaster, when the cruise liner capsized off Italy more than two years ago, will likely end up costing the ship's owners just over $2 billion (1.5 billion euros), a company executive told a German newspaper.
"So far, our costs are at 1 billion euros. But that does not include 100 million for the ship to be broken up for scrap and the cost of repairing damage to Giglio island," Michael Thamm, chief executive of Costa Crociere - a unit of Carnival Corp and operator of the ship - told weekly Bild am Sonntag.
The disaster dealt a blow to the image of Carnival, the world's largest cruise operator, which in March forecast an annual profit below analysts' estimates as it cut prices and spent more on advertising to attract customers.
Luxury liner Costa Concordia hit rocks as it sailed close to the island of Giglio off Tuscany in January 2012, killing 32 people and setting off a chaotic evacuation of crew and passengers, some of whom jumped into the sea and swam ashore.
The hulk of the 290-metre ship was righted and secured in a complex operation last September and, with the arrival of calm summer weather, is due to be towed to Genoa to be broken up for scrap in the coming days.
"If everything goes well, we can complete this unprecedented salvage project this month," Thamm told Bild am Sonntag in an interview published on Sunday, adding he expected recycling of the ship to take almost two years.
Thamm said Costa Crociere managed to retain 95 percent of its customers following the ship's sinking, thanks in part to "significant" discounts. Some 50 to 60 percent of Costa Concordia's surviving passengers have since taken another cruise with the company, he added.
($1 = 0.7331 Euros)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan, editing by William Hardy)