September 16, 2013

Shipwrecked Concordia wrested off Italian reef

Never before has such an enormous cruise ship been righted.

The Associated Press

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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)

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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.

AP

PROJECT WEBSITE

To follow progress of the 'parbuckling' effort to right the Concordia,

click here

.

Engineers used remote controls to guide a synchronized system of pulleys, counterweights and huge chains that were looped under the Concordia's carcass to delicately nudge the ship free from its rocky seabed. A few hours into the operation, four of those cables became slack and threatened to become entangled with other cables, forcing the winching to halt for an hour while workers fixed the problem, Costa engineer Franco Porcellacchia said.

Later in the rotation process, a series of tanks on the exposed side of the hull will be filled with water to help pull it down. That phase should rotate the ship faster than the winching, Porcellacchia said.

Once the ship is upright, engineers hope to attach an equal number of tanks filled with water on the other side to balance the ship, anchor it and stabilize it during the winter months. The flat-keeled hull itself will be resting on a false seabed constructed some 30 meters (100 feet) underwater.

When it comes time to tow the ship away next spring, the tanks will gradually be emptied of the water. That will make the ship buoyant enough to float off the seabed, with the tanks acting like a giant pair of water wings.

Costa Crociere SpA, the Italian unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp., is picking up the tab for the operation, which it estimates so far at 600 million euros ($800 million). Much of that will be passed on to its insurers.

A few dozen island residents gathered Monday on a breakwater to witness the operation. One woman walking her dog sported a T-shirt with "Keep Calm and Watch the Parbuckling Project" written across it in English.

Others watched from afar. Kevin Rebello, whose brother Russel was a waiter on the ship and was never found, said he was in constant touch with the project managers as he monitored news reports.

"I haven't slept since yesterday," he told The Associated Press in an interview in Rome. "It's taken 20 months. If it takes another 20 hours, for me it's worth the wait."

Rebello plans to travel to Giglio Island on Tuesday, even though he knows there's no certainty his brother's remains will be found. His hope is that someday he can bring his brother home to Mumbai "to give him a decent burial.

"That's what me, my family, his wife and all of us are hoping for," he said.

The Concordia's captain is on trial for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship during the chaotic and delayed evacuation. Capt. Francesco Schettino claims the reef wasn't on the nautical charts for the liner's weeklong Mediterranean cruise.

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