Saturday, March 8, 2014
The Associated Press
GIGLIO ISLAND, Italy — Using a vast system of steel cables and pulleys, maritime engineers on Monday gingerly winched the massive hull of the Costa Concordia off the reef where the cruise ship capsized near an Italian island in January 2012.
The Costa Concordia ship lies on its side on the Tuscan Island of Giglio, Italy, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. Engineers on Monday succeeded in wresting the hull of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia from the Italian reef where it has been stuck since it capsized in January 2012, leaving them cautiously optimistic they can rotate the luxury liner upright and eventually tow it away. Never before has such an enormous cruise ship been righted, and the crippled Concordia didn't budge for the first three hours after the operation began, engineer Sergio Girotto told reporters. (AP Photo/Andrea Sinibaldi, Lapresse)
Reporters watch the Costa Concordia ship lying on its side on the Tuscan Island of Giglio, Italy, early Monday morning. An international team of engineers is trying a never-before attempted strategy to set upright the luxury liner, which capsized after striking a reef in 2012, killing 32 people.
To follow progress of the 'parbuckling' effort to right the Concordia,
But progress in pulling the heavily listing luxury liner to an upright position was going much slower than expected. Delays meant the delicate operation — originally scheduled from dawn to dusk Monday — was not expected to be completed before Tuesday morning.
"Things are going like they should, but on a timetable that is dragging out," Franco Gabrielli, head of Italy's Civil Protection Agency, said Monday evening.
Never before has such an enormous cruise ship been righted. Salvage workers struggled to overcome obstacle after obstacle as they slowly inched toward their goal of raising the crippled ship 65 degrees to the upright position.
An early morning storm delayed the salvage command barge from getting into place for several hours. Later, some of the cables dragging the ship's hull upright went slack, forcing engineers to climb the hull to fix them.
The Concordia itself didn't budge for the first three hours after the operation began, engineer Sergio Girotto told reporters.
The initial operation to lift the ship moved it just 3 degrees toward vertical. After 10 hours, the crippled ship had edged upward by just under 13 degrees, a fraction of what had been expected.
Still, the top engineers were staying positive.
"Even if it's 15 to 18 hours, we're OK with that. We are happy with the way things are going," Girotto said.
After some 6,000 tons of force were applied — using a complex system of pulleys and counterweights — Girotto said "we saw the detachment" of the ship's hull from the reef thanks to undersea cameras.
At the waterline, a few feet of slime-covered ship that had been underwater slowly became visible.
Thirty-two people died on Jan. 13, 2012, when the Concordia slammed into a reef and toppled half-submerged on its side after coming too close to Giglio Island. The reef sliced a 70-meter-long (230-foot) gash into what is now the exposed side off the hull, letting seawater rush in.
The resulting tilt was so drastic that many lifeboats couldn't be launched. Dozens of the 4,200 passengers and crew were plucked to safety by helicopters or jumped into the sea and swam to shore. The bodies of many of the dead were retrieved inside the ship.
Girotto said the cameras on Monday did not immediately reveal any sign of the two bodies that were never recovered.
Engineers have dismissed as "remote" the possibility that the Concordia might break apart during the salvage operation but set out absorbent barriers to catch any leaks of toxic materials from the ship.
Images transmitted Monday by robotic diving vehicles indicated the submerged side of the cruise ship's hull had suffered "great deformation" from all its time on the granite seabed, battered by waves and compressed under the weight of the ship's 115,000 tons, Girotto said.
Officials said so far no appreciable pollution from inside the ship had spewed out. Giglio Island is part of a Tuscan marine sanctuary where dolphins and fish are plentiful.
The salvage operation, known in nautical parlance as parbuckling, was used on the USS Oklahoma in 1943 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But the 300-meter (1,000-foot) Concordia has been described as the largest cruise ship ever to capsize and subsequently require the complex rotation so it can be towed away in one piece and dismantled for scrap.
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