The first of 19 more massive sponsons to be attached to the Costa Concordia was positioned last week to ready the ship to be towed from the Italian island of Giglio. The cruise liner has sat 300 meters from shore since the Jan. 13, 2012 tragedy.

Over the next few weeks more sponsons to be attached to join those already attached to the ship. Fourteen of the sponsons will be placed on the starboard side, another 5 on the port side; they are up to 810-tonnes, 33.5-meter wide and 11.5-meter high. The sponsons, when in place, will help to lift the Costa Concordia off the false bottom that the companies working the job have now got it sitting on, and enable it to be fully-floated and towed.

Some 65 percent of the ship was submerged underwater when it hit a reef and keeled over. It was pulled back upright last September in a lengthy process called parbuckling by the companies Titan Salvage of the U.S. and Micoperi of Italy.

There has been no specific date given for the ship to be towed but Italy's environmental minister, Gian Luca Galetti, told media 10 days ago that the ship would be towed to a port for dismantling “ soon as possible, to protect the environment and also the summer tourist season.” Previously, Galetti said it would likely be June by the time the ship was finally removed but this recent statement, while not definitive, gave the impression it may be gone sooner. However, with so many sponsons yet to be attached, June may still be the most likely target-date for the towing.

The Costa Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, is accused of having ordered the ship too close to shore to 'salute' a retired captain living on Giglio. Thirty-two of over 4,200 people on board the ship died and Schettino is currently on trial in Grosetto. Schettino is charged with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship. Last summer his lawyers tried to get him a plea bargain but the prosecution declined doing so. If found guilty, Schettino, 54, could get up to 20 years in jail.

Source :