Costa Concordia: Operations to Tow the Wreck Begin
Maneouvres began early on Wednesday to remove the rusty hulk of the Costa Concordia cruise liner from the Italian island where it struck rocks and capsized two years ago, killing 32 people.
A convoy of 14 vessels, led by the tug boat Blizzard, will start to tow the Concordia later on Wednesday to a port near Genoa in northern Italy where it is due to arrive on Sunday, before being broken up for scrap.
Over the past week, salvagers have slowly lifted the 114,500-tonne ship from underwater platforms by pumping air into 30 large metal boxes, or sponsons, attached to the hull.
Franco Porcellachia, engineer in charge of the salvage, said on Tuesday that his team had done everything in their power to make sure the ship, which is around two-and-a-half times the size of the Titanic, was structurally sound. "When we are in sight of the port of Genoa, we can declare victory," said Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy's civil protection service, on Wednesday.
The whole salvage operation is set to cost the ship's owners Costa Crociere, a unit of Carnival Corp over 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion), its chief executive said earlier this month.
Bad weather delayed the process by two days, and salvage master Nick Sloane said on Wednesday that "forecasts are good" and "today is a big day for Giglio". Probably before midday, the ship will take a route out of the port towards the east, before heading north at a rate of two knots, or nautical miles per hour, Sloane said.
One person who was on the ship when it sank is still missing. Salvage organisers have said the search for the body will continue once the Concordia has left Giglio.
The demolition and scrapping will be done by a consortium including Italian oil services group Saipem and Genoa-based companies Mariotti and San Giorgio.
(By Eleanor Biles and Silvia Ognibene)