A DUNDALK salvage expert will visit the scene of the Costa Concordia recovery mission next month, the Argus has learned.
Paddy Agnew, Belfry Gardens, has been invited out to see first hand the controversial cruise liner, which sank off the Italian coast last year with the deaths of 32 people, being raised from the sea.
'It will be a unique opportunity to see such a large ship being recovered,' said Paddy, who has established links with international diving companies working on the Concordia recovery through his firm SubSea Marine.
The cruise liner is back in the news again as the massive salvage operation began one year after it sank off Giglio island.
Paddy is preparing for the trip after recently returning from the recovery of the historic tall ship Astrid.
He and fellow Dundalk diver Alan Bogan worked on raising the ship which crashed into rocks along the Kinsale coast during the summer.
'We worked underwater to get the ship de-rigged before it could be raised. We had to go inside the vessel when it was still submerged, which was a bit surreal as there was floating debris everywhere, personal belongings including ipads and clothing.'
The Dundalk divers also succeeded in locating valuable items from the ship including its main bell, compass and wheel after fears were raised that they had been stolen.
'We knew these items were underwater somewhere, and were delighted to have been able to salvage them from the wreck and have them returned to the crew,' said Paddy.
He told of the 'spectacular sight' of the vessel being lifted above the water.
'It was an amazing scene really, especially at night with the whole area illuminated. There was a huge floating crane in position to lift the ship, and eventually it was taken up and placed on a barge.'
The Dutch-owned vessel had visited Kinsale on a journey from Southampton to Cherbourg in France. It is thought to have suffered engine failure and began taking on water.
Thirty people including the ship's crew were rescued before it sank beneath the water.
'There was a lot of interest in the ship's recovery, every day we looked up at the cliff face it was lined with people watching how the salvage was progressing.'
Paddy and the team of divers are also set to be featured in a documentary filmed by RTE focusing on the work of salvage companies across Ireland.
The documentary is set to be broadcast in 2014.