The rusty wreckage of the once luxurious cruise liner has been raised above the water surface

Costa Concordia ready for final journey

Preparations for the wreckage of Costa Concordia to be towed away for scrap have been finished over the weekend as engineers managed to refloat the ship.

The engineers have used 30 large metal boxes, or sponsons, attached around the hull, which they have gradually filled with air, lifting the 114,500-tonne wreck from an undersea platform.

The wreckage will be towed away from the island of Giglio where it sank two and a half years ago later this week. Its final journey was originally planned for Monday but was postponed due to bad weather conditions.

A convoy of 14 vessels, led by the tug boat Blizzard, will escort Costa Concordia to a port near Genoa, where it will be broken up for scrap, completing one of the biggest maritime salvage operations in history.

Paying for the disaster, including breaking up the vessel and repairing the damage to Giglio, is likely to cost the ship's owner and operator Costa Crociere, a unit of Carnival, more than €1.5bn (£1.2bn), the company's chief executive has said.

The president of the French Concordia survivors group Anne Decre, who is on the island of Giglio, told Reuters on Sunday that the departure of the ship will be an important symbolic moment for those who were aboard the night of the shipwreck.

"It gives us the opportunity to try and collect ourselves and move forward," she said, adding that the liner will take the same route to Genoa it should have taken more than two years ago to complete its ill-fated cruise.

"We hope that we will also be able to return to our route."

The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, is on trial on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck as he sailed too close to shore to "salute" the port, and abandoning ship. He is fighting the charges.

The cruise liner will be demolished and scrapped in a port near Genoa by a consortium including oil services company Saipem and Genoa-based companies Mariotti and San Giorgio.

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