Italian authorities have given the final go-ahead for a daring attempt to pull upright the crippled Costa Concordia cruise liner from its side in the waters off Tuscany.
The ship capsized there 20 months ago, and Italy\’s national Civil Protection agency waited until sea and weather conditions were forecast for dawn on Monday before giving the final approval.
The Civil Protection agency said the sea and weather conditions were right for the salvage attempt.
In a statement Sunday, the civil protection agency said the sea and wind conditions "fall within the range of operating feasibility".
The Concordia struck a reef near Giglio Island\’s coast the night of January 13, 2012, took on water through a 70-metre gash in its hull and capsized just outside the harbour.
Thirty-two of the 4,200 passengers and crew members died. The bodies of two of the dead have never been recovered, and may lie beneath the wreckage.
Never before have engineers tried to right such a huge ship so close to land. If the operation succeeds, the Concordia will be towed away and broken up for scrap.
Salvage experts had originally hoped to right the 115,000 ton vessel last spring, but heavy storms hampered work.
Crews have raced to get the Concordia upright before another winter season batters the ship against its rocky perch
– damage that would increase the chance that it could not be towed away in one piece.
Since the Concordia came to rest on its side on two jagged reefs, visitors have come to gawk at the wreck, providing the tiny fishing island a year-round tourist season it never had before.
The operation to bring it vertical involves dozens of crank-like pulleys slowly rotating the ship upright at a rate of about 3 metres per hour, using chains that have been looped around the ship\’s hull.
Tanks filled with water on the exposed side of the vessel will also help rotate it upward, using gravity to pull the exposed side down.
Once upright, those tanks – and an equal number that will be fixed on the opposite side – eventually will be filled with air, rather than water, to help float the ship up off the reef so it can be towed away.
Authorities have asked for patience from the island\’s 1,400 residents during Monday\’s operation, which was expected to last about 10-12 hours.
The salvage project has so far cost more than 600m euros ($800m) and could cost a lot more by the time the operation is complete.