02/04/2012 08:49 BST | Updated 02/04/2012 13:29 BST

Costa Concordia: Cruise Ship To Be Refloated As Part Of Pioneering Salvage Operation

The stricken Costa Concordia could take to the seas again one last time, with rescue crews planning to refloat the cruise liner as part of a pioneering salvage operation.

The £180 million effort involves sealing up holes in the ship's compartments, including the gigantic 50-metre rip across the hull, torn open when the cruise ship ran aground off the island of Gigilo on 12 January.

The ship's compartments will then be pumped full of air, and righted by cranes before the ship is towed to Genoa. The cruise liner is currently poised at an 80 degree angle at a part of the island's coast line known as Seagull point.

Although dismantling the ship piece by piece would be far cheaper, the trailblazing salvage operation has been proposed to save the surrounding waters from pollution.

The island of Giglio on the Tuscan coast is a maritime reserve, home to dolphins, whales and porpoises. Thousands of tourists visit the destination every year during the summer holidays, and local authorities are keen to preserve its reputation as an environmental haven.

It is four months since the ship struck a rock off the Tuscan coast, killing 32 people with two bodies still missing. A spokesman for Giglio council told Sky News that removing the ship intact had always been the solution they wanted, not only because of the minimal environmental impact but also because it "respects the memory of those who died - to have the ship cut up into pieces with two people still missing would have not seemed correct."

Costa Concordia captain, Francesco Schettino, is currently under house arrest while an investigation is conducted into what happened on the night the ship ran aground.

The disgraced captain faces charges of manslaughter, as well as causing a shipwreck and failing to inform maritime authorities of the situation.

It is thought that if he had alerted harbour masters sooner, the ship's lifeboats would have been able to be deployed more successfully. Many of them weren't able to be used safely as the boat had already tilted too far towards the water.

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