* Final destination for wrecked cruise liner
* Prime Minister Renzi expected in Genoa to hail conclusion
By Paola Balsomini
GENOA, Italy, July 27 The wreck of the Costa
Concordia arrived on Sunday off the northern Italian city of
Genoa where it will be broken up for scrap, two-and-a-half years
after the cruise liner ran aground and sank near the Tuscan
island of Giglio, killing 32 people.
After a four-day voyage from Giglio of almost 200 miles,
port pilots began manoeuvering into position the 114,500-tonne
hulk, which was lifted off the rocks and refloated last week
after a complex operation that required months of preparation.
With seas calm but a 10-15 knot northerly wind blowing, the
ship remained around a mile offshore and final docking is
expected in the afternoon, Franco Gabrielli, head of Italy's
Civil Protection Authority, told reporters.
The arrival in the industrial port of Voltri, just outside
the main harbour in Genoa, will cap one of the largest and most
complex maritime salvages ever attempted, expected to cost
Carnival Corp, the owner of the Costa Concordia, and its
insurers more than 1.5 billion euros ($2.14 billion).
A consortium led by Italian engineering group Saipem
and Genoa-based San Giorgio del Porto will break up
the wreck in an operation which sources close to the project
have said could cost 100 million euros ($134.24 million) and
take up to two years.
The Costa Concordia, a huge floating hotel as long as three
football pitches laid end to end with 13 passenger decks, was
carrying some 4,000 passengers and crew when it went down
shortly after the start of a Mediterranean cruise.
The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, is on trial for
causing the shipwreck, which ended in a chaotic nighttime
evacuation during which 32 lives were lost. The body of one crew
member lost during the accident has still not been recovered.
In contrast to the calamitous night of Jan. 13, 2012 when
the Concordia came too close to shore during a display sometimes
performed by cruise ships known as a "salute", the salvage
operation has been a resounding technical success.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is expected in Genoa later on
Sunday to hail the completion of the operation which restored
some pride to Italy after a disaster that was widely interpreted
as a national humiliation as well as a human tragedy.
Work has proceeded with very few serious hitches since the
wreck was brought upright from its position on the rocks and
secured in place last September in a multinational effort led by
U.S. maritime recovery specialist Titan Salvage that involved as
many as 200 crew working on the site at any one time.
Supported by huge "sponsons", or buoyancy tanks, on either
side, the wreck has been towed by two tugboats accompanied by a
convoy of auxiliary vessels which have travelled at an average
speed of around two nautical miles an hour. Helped by calm seas,
there were no major alarms during the voyage.
Once secured in place, the hulk will be brought into a
special dock behind the port where it will be stripped down and
($1 = 0.7448 Euros)
(Writing By James Mackenzie)