The precariously perched hulk of the Costa Concordia cruise ship will be pulled off the seabed in one piece, Italian authorities said Tuesday. But it will take about a year to do so.
The ship hit a reef on Jan. 13 after its captain took the 4,200-passenger liner too close to shore. Thirty-two people were killed in the accident and the ensuing panic, and the liner has rested, half-submerged, off the shore of the Tuscan island of Giglio ever since.
(PHOTOS: Italy’s Stricken Costa Concordia)
The waters around Giglio teem with fish and dolphins, making any attempt to remove the ocean liner, with its massive tanks of fuel oil, a dicey proposition. Italian authorities approved the removal of the ship in one piece by U.S.-owned Titan Salvage. The fuel has already been emptied and pulling the liner out slowly in one piece, instead of chopping it up for scrap, lessens the contamination risk for the area’s sea and coastal life.
Titan will team with Italian contractor Micoperi and will base its efforts out of the mainland port of Civitavecchia, reducing the commotion around Giglio so as not to affect the island’s vital tourism industry. The plan is to repair the ship’s hull and refloat it, then tow it to a nearby Italian port. The sea bottom will then be cleaned and marine life restored.
Capt. Francesco Schettino, the skipper of the Costa Concordia, maintains the reef he struck wasn’t marked on his navigational chart, despite the fact that it shows up on many tourist guides to the area. He remains under house arrest, accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.
Work on the Costa Concordia will begin in May.