Salvage crews have started preliminary work to refloat the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that grounded off Italy in January.
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 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.
Click play to view footage of the overturned liner and the beginning of the salvage operation.
The nearly 950-foot ship, which Carnival Corp.'s Costa Cruises unit operates, capsized Jan. 13 after grounding off the Tuscan island of Giglio. At least 30 people died in the accident. Two remain unaccounted for.
A barge has moved next to the Costa Concordia, and the ship's radar was removed from the upper deck, Reuters reported.
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 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 environment — and filled with air. Reuters said the ship will then be towed to an Italian port and broken up.
In additional reports, an enormous piece of rock that ripped a hole in the side of the Costa Concordia is to be removed and made into a permanent memorial to the victims of the disaster.
A Bulgarian technician aboard the cruise ship, Petar Petrov, is among 37 European Union citizens who have been given the European Citizen's Prize. The award was launched in 2008 to recognize exceptional achievements by Europeans.
When the captain left the sinking ship, Petrov and others helped save the lives of more than 500 people. Petrov reportedly made six runs with a lifeboat and was one of the last three crewmembers to leave the ship.