The Costa Concordia cruise ship will be raised up next month near the Italian island where it still lies keeled over more than a year on from the deadly disaster, the salvage coordinator said on Friday.
The giant liner crashed into the picturesque Tuscan island of Giglio on the night of January 13 last year with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board in a disaster that claimed 32 lives.
"If things go as we are expecting. I think September will be the month of the rotation," prefect Franco Gabrielli told Italian news channel SkyTG24, declining to give a precise date.
The raising of the Concordia had been programmed for September 2012 but was then delayed to May 2013 and then put off again because of technical difficulties.
The salvage is the biggest ever attempted for a passenger ship.
The plan is initially to rotate the 114,500-ton vessel, then attach flotation tanks to the side that is currently under water like the ones already welded to its exposed side.
The tanks will then be emptied of water to act as flotation devices before the ship is towed away to be scrapped in a port that is yet to be determined.
Salvage operators say the rotation has to occur in September at the latest because otherwise there would be a risk of bad weather later in the year.
Giglio mayor Sergio Ortelli said the operation was in its "final phase", adding that he was confident the operation the island return to "calm and normality".
Ortelli said tourist numbers on the island were down 15 percent this season compared to before the crash but said this was an improvement from last summer when arrivals were down 30 percent.
Marine salvage is the process of recovering a ship, its cargo, or other property after a shipwreck. Salvage encompasses towing, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, or patching or repairing a ship.
Today the protection of the environment from cargoes such as oil or other contaminants is often considered a high priority.
"Salvors" are seamen and engineers who carry out salvage to vessels that are not owned by themselves, and who are not members of the vessel's original crew. When salvaging large ships, they may use cranes, floating dry docks and divers to lift and repair ships for short journeys to safety towed by a tugboat.
The aim of the salvage may be to repair the vessel at a harbour or dry dock, or to clear a channel for navigation. Another reason for salvage may be to prevent pollution or damage to the marine environment. Alternatively the vessel or valuable parts of the vessel or its cargo may be recovered for its resale value, or for scrap.
The refloating of ships stranded or sunk in exposed waters is called offshore salvage. In this type of salvage, vessels are exposed to waves, currents and weather and are the most vulnerable and difficult to work on. They also tend to deteriorate more rapidly than such vessels in protected harbors.
Offshore salvage may provide only a short window of opportunity for the salvage team due to unusually high tide or inclement weather for instance. The work window may not come around again for as long as weeks or months and in the interim, the vessel will continue to deteriorate. As a result, it is often imperative to work quickly.
Typically, offshore salvage is conducted from pre-outfitted salvage tugs and other tugboats. In addition, portable diving facilities may be transported by helicopter or small boat to the work area. From a tactical point of view, working in unprotected waters is less hospitable for floating cranes, construction tenders, dredges and equipment barges.