Efforts to salvage the duck-tour vehicle that was struck by a barge in the Delaware River Wednesday are expected to begin Friday morning, said Jason Marchioni, the head of east coast salvage for Weeks Marine.

The New Jersey-based company, which pulled up the wreckage of the U.S. Airways plane that crashed into New York's Hudson River last summer, was awarded the salvage contract by the operators of the Ride the Ducks tour Thursday afternoon.

"We submitted our plans to the Coast Guard, and we're waiting for final approval," he said. "If we get the go ahead, we should be heading out there at 8 a.m."

The 18,000 pound amphibious vessel lies 40 feet underwater. Under the plan Marchioni described in an interview Thursday morning, divers will descend to the bottom of the river and sling metal cables under the vessel's hull. A floating crane would then pull the duck boat to the surface, where water would be pumped out and the vessel then dragged to shore.

"18,000 pounds isn't really that heavy in the world of salvage. Plus you lose half your weight to the buoyancy of the water," Marchioni said.

The operation will be conducted close to slack tide, when the tide is neither flowing in or out. Marchioni said he did not know how long it would take.

"It might be a little difficult for the divers," he said. "They'll probably have to work more by feel. You can't see more than a few feet in front of you down there."

The question of who would salvage the duck-tour vessel remained in negotiations for much of Thursday, with Weeks and at least one other company, Commerce Construction Corp. in Bridgeport, NJ, in the running.

Ride the Ducks is owned by Herschend Family Entertainment, based near Atlanta.

Contact staff writer James Osborne at 856-779-3876 or jaosborne@phillynews.com.

Claudia Vargas contributed reporting to this article.