Rescue operations for the Costa Concordia cruise ship are expected to begin later on Wednesday, as hopes fade that more survivors will be found on the affected cruise ship.
Rescuers have passed through almost the entire ship, which remains above the waterline, and experts believe that there is a small risk of a large fuel leak.
So far, 11 bodies have been found and 24 people have disappeared.
The captain of the Italian ship Francesco Shetino is under house arrest, accused of causing the crash.
Together with the rescue workers – who will start operations after the rescue operation is announced – a specialized team from the Dutch rescue company SMIT must start drilling through the ship to the 17 tanks, which contain more than 2,000 tons of fuel.
According to the company, this could take several weeks.
The announcement that Captain Francesco Sketino would be kept under house arrest instead of in prison came when prosecutors accused him of causing the crash and also escaped from Costa Concordia while passengers were still stranded.
A recording of a conversation between him and a port official after the crash seems to support this, although Captain Francesco Sketino denies the allegations.
In the recording, published by the Corriere della Sera newspaper, the head of the Livorno port administration, Gregorio de Falco, could be heard repeatedly telling the captain to return aboard the ship to help stranded passengers.
“Sethino, you may have escaped the sea, but I will certainly cause you trouble.” Get on board says Gregorio De Falco.
Francesco Shetino seems to refuse, answering first that there are already lifeguards on board, and then it is dark and difficult to see.
Gregorio De Falco answers: “Do you want to go home, Szczecin?” It’s dark, so you want to go home? “
The Coast Guard believes that Captain Francesco Sketino never returned to the ship. He was arrested shortly afterwards.
But during a court hearing on Tuesday, the captain said he could not board the ship because it was lying on its side.
Francesco Shetino claims that after hitting stones, he performed a difficult maneuver that saved the lives of many people.
The ship, carrying 4,200 passengers and crew, had a torn hull when it crashed into rocks late Friday, just hours after leaving the port of Civitavecchia for a week-long Mediterranean cruise.
Some people were forced to swim ashore because the ship’s angle made it impossible to launch lifeboats.
Meanwhile, satellite tracking information published in the shipping magazine Lloyd’s List Intelligence shows that the Costa Concordia sailed closer to Giglio Island on a cruise last August than on its disastrous voyage on Friday.
Lloyd’s List said the ship crossed 230 meters from the island on August 14, 2011 to mark La Notte di San Lorenzo, the night of the island’s shooting star festival.
The deviation of the route on this occasion was apparently allowed by Costa Cruises – the company that owns the ship.
The company said Monday that the ship was never closer than 500 meters to shore when it crossed on August 14th.
Lloyd’s List described the occasion as an “almost leak” and said the ship’s route would be less than 200 meters from the point of collision on Friday’s trip.
Costa Cruises said Monday that the deviation from the route last Friday was “unauthorized, unapproved and unknown to Costa”.
But Richard Mead, editor of Lloyd’s List, said: “The company’s story about what happened, about the fraudster [Capt Schettino] making a bad decision is not as black and white as they originally imagined. “
“This ship had taken a very similar route only a few months before, and the captain would have known that.”
Costa Cruises says it is reviewing the claims, but sticks to a statement it made on Monday.
Lloyd’s list, meanwhile, says the question of which charts the ship’s captain uses seems crucial to his defense if he faces prosecution.