Flavio Cirillo, Italy's undersecretary for the environment told the Italian Parliament this week that the Costa Concordia must be removed before the winter. Cirillo said another winter where it now sits could spell disaster, but not everyone agrees.
While the date of removal has changed many times - initially it was thought it would be long gone by now - until earlier this month the fall was being floated as the date it will be ready for towing. However, Civil Protection Department chief Franco Gabrielli now says that the companies doing the job must provide greater assurances the environment won't be harmed if the Costa Concordia to be removed by then.
He has said the removal won't come until the Spring of 2014.
Gabrielli and his department want assurances that when the operation does take place the ship, already in danger of breaking up under its own weight, will not break apart. That could see much of its contents spilled into the protected waters of the Tuscan Bay.
But Cirillo believes a delay past the fall would create an even more dangerous situation. He fears winter storms could tear the boat apart where it sits. It has survived one winter there, 300 meters from the island of Giglio and with 65 percent of the ship lying underwater.
Costa Concordia's Schettino: no plea bargain
The ship listed over on Jan. 13, 2012 when Captain Francesco Schettino, whose trial is now underway in Grosetto, is alleged to have taken her too close to shore to 'salute' a colleague on the island. Thirty-two people died when the 114,500 tonnes luxury liner hit a reef that tore a massive hole in the hull.
Schettino, 52, delayed giving the abandon ship signal for more than an hour after the accident, creating a far more dangerous evacuation.
Titan Salvage of the U .S. and Microperi of Italy, the companies in charge of the operation, are building a series of pontoons under the ship and raising her, in essence refloating the cruise liner. They will then tow it to the port at Piombino to be scrapped.
Four other ship's officers and an employee from the Costa Cruises emergency center were given plea bargains and sentences varying from one year and 8 months to two years and 10 months. As part of the plea bargain each pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter and negligence causing death.
Schettino, however, charged with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship, was denied a plea bargain. If found guilty the 52-year-old faces up to 20 years in prison.