Engineers have begun to secure the final chains to the shipwrecked Costa Concordia, in what has become one of the biggest maritime salvage operations in history.
“Work has proceeded all night, still 4 chains to be connected,” project organisers for the wreck’s removal tweeted.
Italians living on the island of Giglio gathered to remember the 32 victims of the Costa Concordia tragedy on the eve of the final phase of a salvage operation.
Locals plus maritime engineers and government officials took a moment to reflect on the evening of January 13, 2012 when the 114,500-tonne liner ran aground.
Since then the wreck of the vessel has been resting on a specially constructed platform ahead of the next stage which involves it being towed to Genoa.
“I think this operation does not end here, it does not end when the wreck of the Concordia reaches the port of Genoa. The most important goal for us is to protect the environment,” said Italian Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti.
The process involves air being pumped into 30 giant box-like compartments that have been welded to the Costa Concordia’s hull, forcing out sea water and raising the vessel by around 13 metres.
Engineers say the first few hours of the re-float are the most critical. Weather allowing the operation should take five or six days, after which the liner will be towed away from Giglio.
More than twice the size of the Titanic, the Costa Concordia is due to begin its final journey on July 21, according to engineers. Upon arrival in Genoa, it will be broken up for scrap.
The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is standing trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. He is fighting the charges.