Salvage of the capsized Costa Concordia cruise liner got underway last week, 5 months after the 114,500-ton ship with 4,200 aboard ran aground near Giglio Island off Italy’s Tuscan coast.
Operations to right, refloat and eventually tow the ship to an Italian port are being led by Titan Salvage, based in Pompano Beach, Florida. Partnering with Titan is the Italian firm Micoperi, which specializes in underwater construction and engineering.
The entire operation is expected to take nearly a year to complete, and was chosen as the method least likely to cause further environmental damage to the sensitive marine area in which the ship has been stranded since January 13.
As planned, the salvage operation involves four stages:
- Once the ship has been stabilized, an underwater platform will be built and watertight boxes, or caissons, fixed to the side of the ship that is currently above water.
- Two cranes fixed to the platform will pull the ship upright, helped by the weight of the water-filled caissons.
- After the ship has been righted, additional caissons will be fixed to the other side of the hull to stabilize it.
- Finally, water inside the caissons will be purified to protect the marine environment, then emptied and filled with air to add buoyancy.
Once afloat, the wreck will be towed to an Italian port while the salvage team begins environmental cleanup and restoration efforts in the area where the ship has languished since January.
When Costa Concordia ran aground, it carried an estimate 500,000 gallons of fuel that, if leaked into the water, would have posed a significant environmental threat. That threat, however, never materialized. Operations to recover the fuel began in mid-February and were successfully completed five weeks later.
The ship was on the first leg of a planned 6-port cruise when her captain, Francesco Schettino, intentionally veered off course in order to do a close sail-by of Giglio Island. It was then that the ship struck a reef, tearing a gash in her side beneath the waterline.
As Costa Concordia took on water, its engine room and generators flooded, causing the vessel to drift for more than an hour before running aground, capsizing and eventually being evacuated.
Schettino remains under house arrest, charged with multiple manslaughter, causing the accident and abandoning ship prematurely.
The accident resulted in 30 confirmed deaths, 2 missing and presumed dead, and 64 injuries.