Raising the Costa Concordia: Italian sunseekers look on as salvage team start year-long operation to refloat and tow away stricken vessel

Raising the Costa Concordia: Italian sunseekers look on as salvage team start year-long operation to refloat and tow away stricken vessel
Engineers move a salvage rig into place next to the luxury cruise liner off the Isola del Giglio, ItalyOperation to refloat the 114,000-ton liner and tow her away will take one year to complete32 died when Costa Concordia sank in January, after hitting a submerged reef

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UPDATED:

19:38 GMT, 20 June 2012

Sunseekers on Italy's Isola del Giglio look on as salvage crews begin the mammoth task of refloating the Costa Concordia – almost half a year after the stricken vessel capsized off the Tuscan coast.

Engineers yesterday moved a salvage rig – the Titan-Micoperi – into place next to the luxury cruise liner, which capsized in January, when it struck an 80-ton rock that lay
within a submerged reef.

The operation to refloat the 114,000-ton
liner and tow her away will take one year to complete in what has been described
as an 'unprecedented' procedure. It is expected to cost more than $300million (190million).

But it hasn't put holidaymakers off visiting the idyllic island. As temperatures reached 28 degrees Celsius today, sunbathers stripped down and swam in the Tyrrhenian sea – just yards from the salvage operation.

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Vacationers stand in front of the wreckage of capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia near the harbour of Giglio Porto June 20, 2012

Vacationers stand in front of the wreckage of capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia near the harbour of Giglio Porto June 20, 2012

Vacationers are seen in front of the wreckage of capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia near the harbour of Giglio Porto June 20, 2012

Vacationers are seen in front of the wreckage of capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia near the harbour of Giglio Porto June 20, 2012

Vacationers stands in front of the wreckage of capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia near the harbour of Giglio Porto June 20, 2012

Vacationers stands in front of the wreckage of capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia near the harbour of Giglio Porto June 20, 2012

A woman swims in front of the wreckage of capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia near the harbour of Giglio Porto June 20, 2012

A woman swims in front of the wreckage of capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia near the harbour of Giglio Porto June 20, 2012

Unprecedented operation: Engineers have moved a salvage rig - the Titan-Micoperi (bottom right) - into place next to the cruise liner off the coast of Isola del Giglio, Italy

Unprecedented operation: Engineers have moved a salvage rig – the Titan-Micoperi (bottom right) – into place next to the cruise liner off the coast of Isola del Giglio, Italy

Huge task: The operation to refloat the 114,000-ton liner and tow her away will take one year to complete and is expected to cost more than $300million (190million)

Huge task: The operation to refloat the 114,000-ton liner and tow her away will take one year to complete and is expected to cost more than $300million (190million)

A
cage will be built around the Concordia and then barges with cranes
will be brought in and anchored to the sea bed to help straighten and
refloat the massive 290metre-long ship.

Once upright, it will be towed to a dry dock where it is expected to be scrapped.

It emerged last week that
the massive rock lodged into her side will be removed and turned into a
memorial to the 32 people who lost their lives on the ill-fated vessel.

Captain Francesco Schettino is
accused of altering the course of the ship so that it sailed close to
the picturesque coast in a bid to impress passengers and crew, as well
as locals waiting on a nearby island.

But the liner instead sailed straight
into the path of the rock, which tore a 70-metre hole into the side of
the Costa Concordia's hull before becoming lodged inside the vessel.

More than 4,000 holidaymakers and
crew were on board when the disaster struck just three hours after the
ship left port for the start of a Mediterranean cruise on January 13.

At
the time, coastguards said they had 'never seen' anything like it and
described the lodged rock as 'unique in maritime history'.

A cage will be built around the Concordia and then barges with cranes will be brought in and anchored to the sea bed to help straighten and refloat the massive 290metre-long ship

A cage will be built around the Concordia and then barges with cranes will be brought in and anchored to the sea bed to help straighten and refloat the massive ship

Tragedy: More than 4,000 holidaymakers and crew were on board when the disaster struck just three hours after the ship left port on a Mediterranean cruise in January

Tragedy: More than 4,000 holidaymakers and crew were on board when the disaster struck just three hours after the ship left port on a Mediterranean cruise in January

Long operation: Salvage engineers prepare to start work on refloating the Costa Concordia

Long operation: Salvage engineers prepare to start work on refloating the Costa Concordia

Under house arrest: Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of causing the shipwreck, among other charges

Under house arrest: Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of causing the shipwreck, among other charges

Sergio
Ortelli, mayor of Giglio, confirmed 40,000 will be spent to remove the
rock as part of the judicial investigation into the tragedy and it will
later be turned into a 'fitting' memorial.

He said: 'The Costa Cruises company has said this is what they want to happen and it is also what we want to happen.

'It will be removed and turned into a memorial of some sorts so that the island can pay tribute to those who lost their lives.

'We
have no idea yet where it will be positioned, but most likely it will
be close to the harbour entrance so that visitors and locals can see it
clearly and pay their respects to the victims.

'What happened that night is something Giglio will never forget and the rock will be a fitting memorial.'

Prosecutors have launched an investigation into Mr Schettino's actions, who is currently under house arrest.

He has been charged with causing a
shipwreck, multiple manslaughter, abandoning ship and failing to inform
maritime authorities of the situation.

It is claimed that Mr Schettino delayed the order to abandon ship for more than an hour.

This
meant that by the time the lifeboats were launched, it was already too
late to use them because of the angle of the Concordia.

Many passengers and crew had to make their way down the hull on rope ladders instead.

Witnesses
have told prosecutors that Mr Schettino was in a lifeboat when at least
300 people were still on board and needed to be rescued.

This
allegation has led to claims of cowardice against the captain, as he
saved himself instead of following the maritime tradition of staying at
his post as late as possible.

The Costa Concordia lies aground in front of the Isola del Giglio on January 23, ten days after the disaster unfolded

The Costa Concordia lies aground in front of the Isola del Giglio on January 23, ten days after the disaster unfolded

Tribute: The massive rock lodged into the side of the ship will be removed and turned into a memorial to the 32 people who lost their lives on the ill-fated vessel

Tribute: The massive rock lodged into the side of the ship will be removed and turned into a memorial to the 32 people who lost their lives on the ill-fated vessel

People
living in Giglio want the ship removed as quickly as possible and
without any lasting environmental impact to the the area.

The
coast is a protected maritime park and boasts a strong population of
whales, porpoises and dolphins. The island's beaches are also a popular
attraction for thousands of tourists every summer who flock to Giglio.

Earlier
this year, salvage teams pumped off 2,380 tonnes of heavy duty diesel
that remained in the ship's fuel tanks, in a round-the-clock operation
lasting five weeks.

Mr
Schettino is currently under house arrest at his home in Meta di
Sorrento, near Naples. His trial is set to resume next month.