Salvage operation starts for sunken cruise liner

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Salvage crews started preliminary work to refloat the partially submerged Costa Concordia cruise liner.

Titan Salvage, a U.S. company owned by the Crowley Maritime Group, and Micoperi, an Italian company that specializes in underwater construction and engineering, were contracted to refloat the wrecked liner and tow it away. The job is expected to cost at least $300 million and last about a year, according to a Reuters report at msnbc.com.

The job is described as the largest maritime salvage operation ever undertaken.

The nearly 1,000-foot cruise liner, which Carnival Corp.'s Costa Cruises unit operates, capsized Jan. 13 off the Tuscan island of Giglio after it struck rocks. At least 30 people died in the accident. Two remain unaccounted for.

A barge has moved next to the liner and the ship's radar was removed from the upper deck, Reuters reported. The ship’s swimming pool slide and the large yellow funnel will be taken off in the coming weeks, salvage workers and local officials told the news service.

There are four stages of operation in the salvage plan, according to a press release:

• Once the ship has been stabilized, an underwater platform will be built and watertight boxes, or caissons, will be fixed to the ship’s side.

• Two cranes fixed to the platform will pull the ship upright, helped by the weight of the caissons, which will be filled with water.

• When the ship is upright, caissons will be fixed to the other side of the hull to stabilize it.

• Lastly, the caissons on both sides will be emptied — after the water inside has been purified to protect the marine environment — and filled with air.

Reuters said the ship will then be towed to an Italian port and broken up.

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