The crippled cruise ship Costa Concordia will be floated off the seabed in June so it can be towed away to be scrapped.
Thirty huge air-filled will lift the 114,500-tonne vessel off the seabed near the Italian island of Giglio where it has lain since being hauled upright in a complex "parbuckling" operation in September.
The ship capsized after hitting rocks on January 13, 2012, killing 32 people, and the ship's captain Francesco Schettino is on trial for manslaughter, causing the wreck and abandoning ship. He says he was not the only person to blame for the disaster.
"This incident is part of our DNA and our mission is to make sure that it never happens again," Michael Thamm, chief executive of Costa Crociere, a unit of Carnival Corp, which owns the liner, told reporters at a news conference. “We are very confident we can remove the ship from the island within the month of June."
In April, teams will begin to fit 19 buoyancy tanks to the side of the ship, adding to the 11 already in place. Once the tanks are fitted and the weather is good, the Concordia will be ready to be refloated, said Franco Porcellacchia, the engineer in charge of the salvage.
The plan is to begin to pump air into the tanks and water out at the start of June. It will take seven to 10 days to slowly lift the ship from the seabed and prepare it for towing.
"It's a very delicate operation," Porcellacchia said.
It has yet to be decided where the ship, about two-and-a-half times the size of the Titanic, will be dismantled, but the Concordia salvage is expected to be the most expensive wreck recovery ever at a cost of more than €600m (£500m).
Few ports in Europe have the necessary depth of at least 20m to take the vessel, said Porcellacchia, Officials declined to say how much the dismantling would cost because the bidding process is in progress.
Italian officials at the news conference confirmed June was the target date for towing away the ship, though a slight delay could not be ruled out, depending mostly on weather.
"During the next tourist season on the island the ship will be gone," Environment Minister Andrea Orlando said.
Where the ship will be dismantled will be decided by the end of February, said Franco Gabrielli, the man charged by the government with overseeing the salvage operations and about 12 companies are expected to bid for the dismantling contract.
Costa Concordia infographics on the E&T Wordpress blog:
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.