A NORTH-EAST marine firm has missed out on a contract to scrap the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner.

Able UK had bid to recycle the vessel, which ran aground after striking a reef off Tuscany, Italy, killing 32 people in January 2012.

The firm had applied to demolish the liner at its Able Seaton Port at the mouth of the River Tees, near Middlesbrough.

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However, work has been awarded to an Italian yard in Genoa, with Able UK bosses saying political pressure could have influenced the decision.

Neil Etherington, Able UK group development director, said: “We were confident, given our record for dismantling offshore structures and ships for major clients, that we were strong contenders.

“However, given the decision was subject to approval by the Italian government, we were aware there was a strong likelihood, and risk, the preference would be for the work going to an Italian yard.

“If, as seems likely that did influence the decision, it might perhaps provide food for thought for the UK Government in future decisions on the disposal and dismantling of UK vessels.

“In recent years, we’ve seen numerous instances where naval vessels have ended up being dismantled abroad when clearly high-quality facilities exist in the UK.”

A handful of Italian ports, including Genoa, Piombino, Palermo and Civitavecchia, bid to take in the wreck, though there were also bidders in France, Turkey and China and the UK.

Earlier this year, Able UK secured a contact to dispose of North Sea offshore platforms by removing four structures from the Shell operated Brent Field.

The company will take three platform topsides and a 138-metre steel platform jacket.