December 6, 2013
Engineers start Costa Concordia salvage off Italian island
Engineering teams on the Italian island of Giglio began lifting the wrecked Costa Concordia liner upright today in one of the most complex and costly maritime salvage operations ever attempted.
The vast hulk of the 114,500-tonne cruise liner has lain on its side for more than 20 months, dominating the tiny port in the Tuscan holiday island where it ran aground and capsized on Jan. 13, 2012, killing 32 people.
After a three-hour delay caused by an overnight storm which interrupted final preparations, salvage crews started the so-called "parbuckling" operation at around 9.00 a.m. (0700 GMT).
The first signs the wreck was shifting were registered at around midday as underwater cameras recorded water swirling in the area where the metal was resting on the sea bed.
"It's all quite within projections, both in terms of measurements and the way the wreck's behaving," Sergio Girotto, project manager for contractors Micoperi, told reporters.
In contrast to the accident, a catalogue of mishap and misjudgement over which the Concordia's captain Francesco Schettino faces multiple charges, the salvage operation has so far been a tightly coordinated engineering feat.
At a cost estimated so far at more than 600 million euros ($795 million), it is expected to be the most expensive maritime wreck recovery ever, accounting for more than half of an overall insurance loss of more than $1.1 billion.
A multinational team of 500 salvage engineers has been on Giglio for most of the past year, stabilising the wreck and preparing for the start of the lifting operation.
The ship, a floating hotel carrying more than 4,000 passengers and crew, sank when rocks tore into its hull after it came too close to shore at the start of a Mediterranean cruise.
Marine insurers who have to calculate the cost of covering a new breed of large cargo and cruise vessels will be watching the project on Giglio closely, well aware that any problems could have a significant impact on future insurance contracts.
Today, Italian Environment Minister Andrea Orlando said that Italy, which is seeking compensation for the environmental damage caused by the wreck, should be able to put a figure to its claim once the damage to the seabed became visible.