We report live from the Costa Concordia raising: Cruise Critic Live!
(6:45 a.m. EDT) -- Costa Concordia's refloat is complete, and the shipwreck is now being towed to Italy's mainland to be scrapped.
Concordia set off from the Italian island of Giglio just before 9:00 a.m., local time, according to the BBC, and the journey from Giglio to Genoa is expected to take four days. The ship is being towed at a speed of about two knots, accompanied by more than a dozen tug boats.
Titan Micoperi, the international consortium in charge of the salvage operation, began final preparations for Concordia's removal from the protected marine sanctuary that surrounds Giglio at 6:00 a.m. today (July 23).
Refloating operations, which have taken place off the coast of Giglio over the past nine days, were completed yesterday afternoon (July 22).
Concordia ran aground and foundered just meters from Giglio's shoreline in January 2012, claiming the lives of 32 people. The project to refloat and remove the shipwreck has been one of the largest and costliest salvage operations of its kind, with costs estimated to exceed 1.5 billion euros.
In September 2013, the ship was raised upright and lowered onto a man-made undersea platform in a complex operation known as a "parbuckling." Giant metal flotation tanks called sponsons have been affixed to the hull to partially raise the ship -- leaving the ship with a draft of 18.5 meters (about 60 feet) -- to enable it to be towed into port in Genoa for scrapping.
Potential environmental impacts from residual toxic material remaining on the ship are being closely monitored, too. Environmental agencies are testing the water that runs off for hydrocarbons, heavy metals and detergents. The salvage team has inspected Concordia's hull for cracks and fissures with remote operated vehicles (ROVs) and found no major breaks. And Costa will attempt to return the sea bed to exactly the way it was before the accident, including replacing some endemic mollusks that were moved from the salvage zone.
Officials also confirmed that the seabed will be searched again for the last missing body -- that of Russel Rebello, a waiter -- when the ship leaves for Genoa. If it is not found then, the ship will be thoroughly searched before it is dismantled in port.
--By Jamey Bergman, UK Production Editor
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