September 17, 2013

Concordia success boosts pride for shamed Italy

The head of Italy's civil protection agency said the operation demonstrated what it means to take responsibility for something, no matter how risky or how high the stakes.

By Frances d'Emilio and Nicole Winfield / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

The Costa Concordia is seen after it was lifted upright, on the Tuscan Island of Giglio, Italy, early Tuesday morning. The crippled cruise ship was pulled completely upright early Tuesday after a complicated, 19-hour operation to wrench it from its side where it capsized last year off Tuscany, with officials declaring it a "perfect" end to a daring and unprecedented engineering feat.

AP

Sloane, who choked up at times during a Tuesday afternoon briefing, was asked what he would say to Schettino if he ever had a chance to meet him.

"I wouldn't like to be in his shoes," Sloane replied. "For a captain, it's the worst thing to happen to you. It's something he has to deal with. But I'm sorry for everyone who was there."

Sloane said the most critical moment of the operation that began early Monday came at the beginning, when the Concordia failed to dislodge itself from the reef embedded in its starboard side even after some 6,000 tons of force was applied.

"That would tend to the higher side of assumptions," he said. "At 6,200 tons she moved, then at 6,800 she got off the rock. That was the crucial moment."

The Concordia's submerged side suffered significant damage during the 20 months it bore the weight of the 115,000-ton, 1,000-foot-long ship on the reef. The daylong operation to right it had stressed that flank as well. Exterior balconies were mangled and entire sections looked warped, although officials said the damage probably looked worse than it really was.

The damage must be repaired to stabilize the ship so it can withstand the coming winter, when seas and winds will whip the luxury liner. The starboard side must also be stabilized so crews can affix tanks that will help float the ship off the seabed when it comes time to tow it sometime next year.

The operation had been expected to take no more than 12 hours but expanded to 19 after an initial weather delay and emergency maintenance issues involving the vast system of steel cables, pulleys and counterweights that were used to roll the half-submerged carcass of steel upright.

Sloane said there were no errors, just tense moments — "alarms started to ring" — when the ship didn't immediately settle onto its artificial seabed platform. Once it did, the control room issued to all the vessels involved the happy announcement that the operation was successful.

For the Gigliese, as the islanders call themselves, Tuesday's righting was an emotional high point in a journey that began that cold January night, when they rushed to the port with blankets, warm clothes and offers of housing as thousands of frightened, shivering passengers struggled ashore.

"I don't have the words to describe how I feel today, because, that night I was among the first to arrive after the shipwreck," said Franca Anichini, who woke up shortly after dawn Tuesday to see the ship upright. "I feel a shiver. What was impossible that night became possible."

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