Further delay to cruise ship recovery

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MORE time and money will be needed to remove the Costa Concordia liner from the rocks off Tuscany where it capsized last year, in part to ensure the toxic materials still trapped inside don’t leak into the marine sanctuary when it is righted, ­officials said yesterday.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the grounding, environmental and salvage experts gave an update on the unprecedented removal project underway, stressing the massive size of the ship – 112,000 tonnes – its precarious perch on the rocks off Giglio island’s port and the environmental concerns at play.

The pristine waters surrounding Giglio are part of a protected marine sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises and whales, and are a favourite for scuba divers. Tourism fell 28 per cent last year thanks in part to the eyesore in Giglio’s port, and officials say the hulk now won’t be removed before the end of this summer.

Franco Gabriele, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, told reporters that officials were now looking at September as the probable date for removal, taking into account conservative estimates for poor weather and rough seas.

Originally, officials had said they hoped to have it removed early this year.

In addition, Gabriele and Costa officials said the cost might now reach €400 million (£331m), up from the original estimate of €300m.

The Concordia slammed into a reef off Giglio on 13 January last year after the captain took it off course in a stunt to bring it closer to the island.

As it took on water through the 230ft gash in its hull, the Concordia rolled on to its side and came to rest on the rocks off Giglio’s port.

Thirty-two people were killed in the sinking.

The captain, Francesco Schettino, remains under house arrest, accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and leaving the liner before all the passengers had been evacuated. He has not been charged. Schettino maintains he saved lives by bringing the ship closer to shore and claims the reef wasn’t on his nautical charts.

Today, relatives of the dead and some survivors were expected to arrive in Giglio for a day-long commemoration to honour the victims, those who rescued them and the residents of Giglio who opened their doors to the survivors.