ROME, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship will be re-floated and hauled away whole instead of being cut for scrap, a senior Italian official said.
Franco Gabrielli, head of the Civil Protection Authority, discussed how the ship would be removed from Italy's Tuscan coast during a meeting with Giglio islanders concerned that the vessel could adversely affect tourism, the British publication The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.
Gabrielli said crews would be mindful of respecting the environment when removing the ship that crashed into rocks Jan. 13 then fell to its side last month. Concerns have been raised about oil spilling into the water, creating an environmental disaster.
The death toll is 17, but 15 people remain unaccounted-for and are presumed dead. The ship carried 4,200 passengers and crew.
Its captain, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest at his home near Naples and faces charges of abandoning ship and multiple counts of manslaughter. He has denied the allegations.
Costa Cruises, the Italian company that owns the liner, said it would seek bids from 10 of the world's best known salvage companies to recover the vessel. Bids must be submitted by early March and the contract would be awarded by the end of the month, with work beginning soon after.
Officials said they hope a Dutch company, Smit, will have extracted 500,000 gallons of diesel and heavy oil in the liner's fuel tanks by the time the removal begins, The Guardian said.
The salvage operation is expected to take up to 10 months.
"This timeline represents the best possible outcome in a situation of this kind, although it cannot be excluded that there will be delays given the complexity of the operation," Genoa-based Costa Cruises said in a statement.