Italy's Costa Concordia wreck 'to be moved in June'

The Costa Concordia after it was brought upright in September The Costa Concordia was righted last September in a complex operation that took 18 hours

An operation to remove the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship from the coast of north-west Italy will begin in June, officials say.

The stricken liner will then be taken away to be scrapped.

Ports in Italy, Britain, France, Turkey and China are bidding for the lucrative contract to dismantle the ship, Italian officials said.

The Costa Concordia hit a reef near the island of Giglio in January 2012 and capsized, killing 32 people.

The captain, Francesco Schettino, is currently on trial for multiple charges of manslaughter and for abandoning ship.

Officials overseeing the Costa Concordia salvage operation set out their timetable at a news conference on Friday.

Project manager Franco Porcellacchia said that, from April, the team would start to fix at least 15 large tanks to the side of the ship. They will be filled with water, and then gradually emptied to give the ship enough buoyancy to float off the seabed.

Once afloat, the ship can then be towed away.

Map The route of the Costa Concordia

But, he said, if that does not work then the world's largest semi-submergible ship, the Dockwise Vanguard, will be on standby and can literally carry the ship into port.

The winning contract for dismantling the Costa Concordia is due to be announced in March.

Italy's environment minister Andrea Orlando said the preference was to keep the project in Italy, both to limit the environmental impact and to keep any economic benefits.

The 290m-long vessel was righted last September in one of the largest, most complex salvage operations ever that took 18 hours and followed months of stabilisation and preparation work by a team of 500 engineers and divers.

That operation allowed divers to retrieve the remains of one of the two people still missing in the disaster, believed to be an Italian passenger, Maria Grazia Trecarichi. An Indian waiter, Russel Rebello, is still unaccounted for.

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