Costa Concordia wreck enters Genoa port for scrapping

The operation to recover the Costa Concordia is ending at a specially constructed wharf near Genoa, as Alan Johnston reports

The wrecked Italian cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, has entered the port of Genoa for scrapping after a two-year salvage operation.

Its removal was one of the biggest ever maritime salvage operations.

It limped into the port to be greeted by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and to the sound of ships' horns blaring.

Worries that the damaged hull would disintegrate under the strain of the four-day, 280km (170-mile) journey from the disaster site proved unfounded.

"This is not a runway show. It's the end of a story in which many people died, which none of us will ever forget," Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) with Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti (L) arrives at the site where the Costa Concordia is moored Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi arrived in Genoa on Sunday with Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti
The wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship is towed by tugboats into Genoa's harbour Costa Concordia ended its journey in the port where its life began nine years ago

"I have come to say thank you to those who have done something that everyone said was not possible."

Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti said it was time finally "to breathe a sigh of relief".

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Italy says that the arrival of the vessel - which is longer and heavier than the Titanic - in Genoa at sunrise on Sunday marks the end of the biggest ever salvage operation of its kind.

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

The wreck was re-floated earlier this month and was kept above the surface by giant buoyancy chambers.

It was towed to Genoa by more than a dozen vessels.

Tug boats tow the Costa Concordia cruise liner as they arrive outside a port near Genoa in northern Italy, where it will be being broken up for scrap, on 27 July 2014. Hundreds of workers are expected to be employed in the scrapping of the vessel
The Costa Concordia being towed on its final journey to the port of Genoa The vessel spent four days being towed at a slow speed from Giglio

A fleet of eight tugs came out of Genoa port and lined it up before very slowly beginning to haul it into the calm waters of the harbour.

Straining against stiff winds, they manoeuvred the vessel inch-by-inch towards a wharf that had been specially prepared to receive it.

It is still hoped that down in the depths of the vessel the remains might be found of crew member Russel Rebello, who went missing on the night of the disaster. His was the only body that was never recovered.

Captain Francesco Schettino has denied charges of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship. If convicted, he could be jailed for up to 20 years.

Genoa is where the Costa Concordia was built and launched amid fanfare and celebration nine years ago.

Antonio Benvenuti, the head of Genoa's harbour workers' union, told AP that there was no "precise schedule" for each stage of dealing with the wreck.

Tests will be carried out first to monitor for potential pollution problems, Mr Benvenuti said, before the first stage of the operation would begin, reducing the weight of the ship in order to lift it.

The Costa Concordia's owners, Costa Crociere, estimate the operation to remove the wreck from the reef and tow it for scrapping will cost 1.5bn euros (£1.2bn; $2bn) in total.

Salvage operation explained

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