Saturday 27 December 2014

Costa Concordia begins final voyage

Published 23/07/2014 | 10:19

The wreck of the Costa Concordia is being towed to the Italian port of Genoa, where it will be scrapped (AP/Gregorio Borgia)
The wreck of the Costa Concordia is being towed to the Italian port of Genoa, where it will be scrapped (AP/Gregorio Borgia)

The Costa Concordia cruise liner has begun its final voyage, being towed slowly away from the tiny Italian island where it capsized in 2012, killing 32 people.

Sirens on nearby boats wailed and bells on the island tolled just before two tugboats pulled the Concordia away from Giglio's port, where the luxury liner ended up on its side after striking a reef when its captain steered too close to the island.

The tugs are taking the crippled ship on a four-day journey to Genoa, the north-western Italian mainland port and home to the ship's owner, Costa Crociere Spa. The vessel will be reduced to scrap at the port.

Accompanying the tugs and Concordia, moving at a speed of two knots, are several boats to check for any possible pollution in the waters, which are home to dolphins.

A daring engineering operation set the Concordia upright in September in preparation for removal. The salvage master of the operation, Nick Sloane, told reporters he was nervous just before boarding the Concordia to monitor the final voyage.

"It's a moment for sobriety and sorrowful respect for those who are no more," Franco Gabrielli, the Italian government official monitoring the removal process, told Sky TG24 as he recalled those who died.

France also sent a boat to monitor the voyage, since the Concordia's final route passes Corsica's east coast.

After the Concordia's departure from Giglio, another search will be launched for the body of the one victim that was never found.

The Concordia's Italian captain is on trial for multiple manslaughter, causing the wreck on January 13, 2012, and abandoning ship before all aboard were evacuated.

Francesco Schettino, the sole defendant in the trial in Tuscany, claimed the reef was not on the liner's nautical charts.

For weeks after the crash, divers combed accessible areas in vain for the body of the final victim, an Indian man who was a waiter on the ship.

Whether the Concordia itself might hold the body, "we will only know in the moment that the ship is dismantled in Genoa", said Mr Gabrielli.

Flying from the Concordia was the Italian flag as regulations require the banner to be visible on the Italian-registered ship until scrapping.

Nets have been attached to the sides of the liner in case any remnants of its last cruise - dishware, pots and pans, bed linen, chairs and other furnishings - fall out during towing.

Press Association

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