UK & World News

  • 23 July 2014, 11:19

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Starts Last Voyage

The wreck of the Costa Concordia is being towed away from the Italian island of Giglio, more than two and half years after it capsized killing 32 people on board.

The cruise liner, twice the size of the Titanic, has started its journey to a scrapyard in the port of Genoa where it will be broken up.

The ship began its final voyage after salvage crews refloated it with giant air tanks in a $2bn (£1.17bn) operation that was one of the biggest of its kind ever carried out.

The 114,500-tonne vessel is being towed from Giglio by two tugs, with another 12 boats sailing in convoy alongside, carrying divers, engineers and environmental experts.

South African salvage master Nick Sloane, who described removing the ship as the "biggest challenge" of his career, said he was ready to "wave goodbye to Giglio".

A 17-strong team of salvage workers are on Concordia for its journey.

Sensors attached to the sides of the ship will monitor for possible cracks in the crippled hull, while underwater cameras will watch for debris being washed out of the vessel amid fears toxic waste could spill into the sea.

Objects floating free such as suitcases, clothes and furniture will be caught in a huge net, while infrared sensors will be used to detect possible oil leaks at night.

The doomed vessel hit rocks off the Italian island in January 2012, tearing a massive gash in the ship's 290-metre-long hull and causing it to keel over.

Video footage shot by divers and released by police earlier this month showed twisted metalwork, broken furniture and discarded belongings left by the 4,200 people who were on board the ship when it crashed.

The body of Indian waiter Russel Rebello is still missing and there will be a search for his remains when the ship is dismantled.

Francesco Schettino, the ship's captain, is on trial on several counts, including manslaughter.

The 53-year-old, who is fighting the charges, is accused of deliberately altering the course of the Concordia in order to carry out a sail-by salute of the island to impress local residents and passengers.

Schettino, who was allegedly on the bridge with his Moldovan lover Domnica Cemortan, claimed it was ''too dark to see anything'' and told investigators he had not fled but had ''tripped and fell into a lifeboat".

He was dubbed "Captain Coward" by some tabloid newspapers after reportedly refusing orders from the coastguard to return to the ship to help with the rescue operation.

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