Fifteeen flotation tanks -- known as sponsons -- will be fixed to the ship's starboard (land) side in April, and a further four will be attached to the port side. Once repairs are made to the badly damaged starboard side, the ship can be safely floated and then towed from its underwater platform in June.
At a meeting with residents, Franco Porcellacchia said: "This would allow us to re-float the ship by June," Italian media reported. "I am extremely confident," he added, but emphasised the operation would be "delicate and weather-sensitive".
The plan is to tow the ship to an as yet undisclosed port and then carry it by a heavy lift ship known as a Vanguard, which is usually used to transport oil rigs.
Since the successful 'parbuckling' operation in September when the ship was dragged upright to rest on an underground platform, engineers have been busy stabilizing it for the winter. It cannot be towed safely until the seas around the island are suitably calm.
At the same meeting, Costa Cruises confirmed that 405 safes have been removed from the dry cabins on board the wreck in agreement with judicial authorities. The contents will be inventoried and handed back to their owners.
The ship hit rocks off the island of Giglio in January, 2013, with the loss of 32 lives. The trial of the captain, Francisco Schettino, continues.
--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor