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Costa Concordia shipwreck to be moved in June

Destination for ship's scrappage operation still to be decided

The Costa Concordia shipwreck is to be towed away from the small Tuscan island of Giglio in June, according to officials in charge of its removal.

The procedure involves fixing giant tanks to the sides of the 114,500-tonne vessel. The tanks will then be filled with water before being emptied slowly, allowing the ship to float off the reef outside Giglio's port where it ran aground exactly two years ago, killing 32 people.

The removal of the 290-m long wreck is the latest procedure in the world's largest and most expensive maritime salvage operation, and follows the ship's uprighting last September in a complex operation known as parbuckling.

The Costa Concordia's captain Francesco Schettino is on trial for manslaughter, causing the wreck and abandoning his ship, whose operating company Costa Croceria estimates the final salvage bill at over €600 million.

The winning contract for dismantling the luxury cruise liner will be announced by March, and it is reported that 12 ports and companies in six different countries are bidding for the lucrative contract to break up the vessel for scrap. The companies angling for the dismantling contract are believed to come from Italy, England, France, Norway, Turkey and the Netherlands.

Italy's environment minister Andrea Orlando said that the government would prefer "a domestic destination" for the ship's scrappage. He said the Italian ports in the running for the contract are the nearby Tuscan port of Piombino; the large northern port of Genoa; Palermo in Sicily; and Civitavecchia located about 80km north of Rome.

The nearest, Piombino is not considered a serious contender for the job, despite currently undergoing a €160-million restructuring programme. The upgrading works include dredging to increase the port's depth from its current less-than 12m to the 20m required by the Costa Concordia. However it is unlikely that the works will be finished in time for the contract announcement expected by March.

Genoa is the best-equipped Italian port on the list, however it is reported that Costa Croceria favours the Turkish port of Aliağa, located in the far-western corner of Turkey, just across the Aegean sea from Athens. In late 2012 the company sent its Costa Allegra cruise ship to Aliağa for scrapping, after the vessel suffered a fire off the coast of the Seychelles earlier that year.

The Turkish port also scrapped the Moby Prince, following a major naval accident in the Italian port of Livorno in 1991.

See related news.

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