The second stage of removing the wrecked luxury liner Costa Concordia from a reef near an Italian island before being towed away for scrapping began Tuesday.
Engineers secured the final chains to the Costa Concordia, preparing the shipwrecked liner to be towed away from Giglio Island where it sank 2 1/2 years ago, killing 32 people.
The 114,500 ton Concordia ran aground off Giglio Island in January 2012 and has been stranded there since, as engineers set up one of the biggest maritime salvage operations in history.
Now the rusting hulk of the once-gleaming white ship, more than twice the size of the Titanic, is on course to leave the Tuscan coast on July 21, engineers said at a press conference.
“Work has proceeded all night, still 4 chains to be connected,” the wreck removal project organizers said on their official Twitter feed around midday.
Authorities said that the first stage of the operation, which took place on Monday, when the shipwreck was refloated from an underwater platform, had gone well.
Towed to Genoa
Ten boats will accompany the Concordia up the Corsica Channel alongside teams tasked with collecting any debris, testing the water for toxins and spotting any approaching dolphins or whales to prevent any collisions, the French news agency AFP reported.
Emergency equipment - 800 meters of oil booms and infrared sensors to detect oil on water at night - will be used in case of toxic leaks from the ship, AFP reported.
The convoy will travel at just two knots an hour for safety reasons. However, rough weather could leave the damaged luxury liner at the mercy of the waves.
Once it reaches Genoa, scrapyard workers will drain the water left inside, divide the ship into three parts and dismantle it over a two-year period, AFP reported.
Meanwhile, Costa is expected immediately to begin efforts to clean up the shipwreck site off Giglio and return the island to its original condition, according to AFP.
The vessel, which struck rocks after sailing too close to the shore, was righted in a complex “parbuckling” operation last September, leaving it resting on an underwater platform.
On Monday, air was pumped into 30 large metal boxes, or sponsons, attached around the hull. The air forced water out of the sponsons, lifting the boat 2 meters off the platform.
Tug boats then heaved the boat - owned by Costa Crociere, a unit of Carnival Corp., about 30 meters from shore, readying it to be towed north to Genoa - about 200 nautical miles north - to be broken up for scrap.
The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, is on trial accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. He is fighting the charges.
The entire operation to remove the Concordia from the reef and float it to Genoa will cost 1.5 billion euros, said Michael Thanm, Costa Crociere CEO.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.