Marine engineers in Italy say they have succeeded in freeing the wreckage of the Costa Concordia liner off the rocks in one of the most complex and expensive salvage operations ever.
Officials say it has been shifted onto a platform constructed on the sea bed near the island of Giglio where it ran aground 20 months ago.
The first signs of movement were registered around midday by underwater cameras, which recorded water swirling around the area where the metal structure was resting on the sea bed.
Bad weather delayed the start of the operation, but after a three hour wait, the pumps started, cables were tightened, and fingers crossed.
Engineers are using a technique that has been dubbed “parbuckling” as the ship is rotated and pulled from above and below, allowing it to right itself and settle on a barge that has already been built underwater. The semi-submerged ship will then be towed to Sicily to be broken up for scrap.
The financial stakes for the insurers are huge; the operation has cost 600 million euros so far, and the costs continue to mount.
The vast hulk of the cruise liner which weighs more than 114,000 tonnes has lain on its side since it ran aground off the Tuscan holiday island in January 2012 when it came too close to the shore, killing 32 people.
The ship’s captain Francesco Schettino went on trial in July, charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship. He has claimed that the rocky reef which the ship hit was not marked on his nautical maps. The case is due to resume next week after a summer break.
Five other people have been convicted of manslaughter over the accident.
Italy is seeking compensation for the environmental damage caused by the wreck: the Environment Minister Andrea Orlando said on Monday that it should be possible to estimate how much to claim once the damage to the seabed became visible.
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