ROME – The Costa Concordia is set to be removed from the shoreline of the Italian island of Giglio by mid-2014, experts said Tuesday, after the wrecked cruise liner was successfully pried from the rocks it had been wedged against for the last 20 months.

The operation to straighten the 300-meter, 114,000-ton vessel by 65 degrees took 19 hours.

“I am relieved and I am a bit tired. I will have a beer and go to sleep. I am sending a kiss to my wife,” the South African-born chief salvage master, Nick Sloane, said as he emerged from the barge from which he commanded the operation.

The listing hull was lifted using steel cables and tanks attached to its exposed side, which were filled with water and used as counterweights in the effort to pull up the wreck, which rested on a false sea bed.

Engineers were next planning to inspect the side that emerged from the water, which was covered in brown mud and heavily deformed.

The idea is to attach tanks also on that side, and use them to refloat the ship by emptying them of water and filling them with air.

Once refloated, the Concordia was expected to be towed away to a yet-to-be decided port for dismantling, but Franco Porcellacchia, an engineer overseeing operations for owners Costa Crociere, was confident it could all be done in the first half of next year.

“I think that all the conditions will be in place in late spring, early summer to think about taking it away,” he said. Work cannot be done faster because of the difficulty of operating during adverse winter conditions.

The Concordia’s rotation was a major engineering feat. The risk was that the rusting hull could snap or sink entirely, jeopardizing the entire salvage operation and causing a likely environmental disaster.

“It could not have gone any better,” Porcellacchia said, while Italian Civil Protection agency chief Franco Gabrielli attacked doomsayers. He singled out a member of the Italian chapter of Greenpeace, who had predicted the spillage of vast quantities of sewage.


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