2013 Sep 17

Costa Concordia salvage: cheers as slime-covered ship is righted

After an epic, 19 hour operation the battered, slime-covered Costa Concordia cruise ship was hauled upright in the biggest salvage of its kind in maritime history.

The 950ft-long ship, which in tonnage is more than twice as big as the Titanic, was finally raised at 4am local time, 2am GMT, from the rocky shallows in which it had lain since capsizing off the Italian island of Giglio on Jan 13, 2012.

The ship came to rest on six specially-constructed, underwater platforms made of steel.

It was a striking sight – its port side, which had remained out of the water, still a pristine white, while its starboard side, which was submerged for 20 months, was coated in brown scum and algae.

The salvage revealed two huge holes that had been punched in the starboard side of the vessel when it keeled over onto a granite reef just a few hundred yards off Giglio.

There were loud cheers and applause from the hundreds of salvage workers from more than 25 nationalities who have worked for more than a year on the complex effort of lifting the 115,000 ton ship, using a technique known as “parbuckling”.

Divers, technicians and engineers were ferried in small boats from the barges and platforms around the wreck to Giglio’s port, where they ordered large bottles of beer to celebrate the completion of the project.

A foghorn rang out across the island and the head of Italy's Civil Protection agency, Franco Gabrielli, announced that the ship had reached a fully vertical position after being successfully rotated 65 degrees.

Nick Sloane, the South African chief salvage master, received a hero's welcome as he came ashore from a barge that had served as the floating control room for the operation.

"Brilliant! Perfetto," Mr Sloane said, using some of the Italian he has learned over the past year on the island, off the coast of Tuscany.

"It was a struggle, a bit of a roller coaster. But for the whole team it was fantastic. I think the whole team is proud of what they achieved," he said as he was mobbed by well-wishers and television crews.

Officials said there was no apparent pollution in the waters around the ship as a result of the operation.

“The parbuckling operation has been successfully completed. The wreck is now upright and resting safely on the specially-built artificial sea bed, at a depth of approximately 30 meters,” said a statement from the Italian-American engineering consortium that was in charge of the effort.
Franco Porcellacchia, the project manager for the Concordia's owner, Costa Cruises, said the operation was faultless.

"We completed the parbuckling operation a few minutes ago the way we thought it would happen and the way we hoped it would happen. A perfect operation, I must say".

Richard Habib, the head of Titan Salvage, the US firm that spearheaded the project, celebrated with a bottle of Heineken outside a cafe in Giglio’s picturesque harbour.

“It was perfection,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “It was a highly engineered job – it had to be because the stakes were so high. It happened just the way we planned it.”

Experts had originally predicted that the operation would be completed in around 10 hours but in the end it took nearly twice as long as that.

“The forces needed to pull the ship upright were greater than expected. It needed a bit more oomph than we had expected. The strand jacks (winches) had to go slower than we’d originally thought,” Mr Habib said.

Experts will now embark on weeks of work to patch up the formerly submerged starboard side of the vessel and make sure the vessel is stable.

They will have to attach huge, hollow steel boxes on the battered starboard side, which will enable the ship to eventually float free and be towed off to an Italian port to be dismantled. That is expected to happen in the spring or summer of next year.

“We have challenges ahead but we consider the project 80 per cent complete. We have overcome the biggest difficulties,” Mr Habib said, dressed in khaki overalls and drinking his beer with other salvage workers.

Salvage workers said they were planning to celebrate the completion of the project with a big party.

Swigging from a bottle of beer outside Bar Fausto, a tiny cafe on the harbour-front, Steve, 34, a Belgian survey technician, said: “It feels really good. We always felt it would work, but it’s still a big relief.”

Nieko, 24, a diver from Belgium, said: “It’s a weird feeling because for so long we saw the ship lying on its side and now it is upright. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Denny Hoffschlag, 34, a diver from the Netherlands, said: “This is a once in a lifetime job. “There’s a lot of joy, seeing the ship finally upright. It gives me goose bumps. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. When we work in Holland the water is so murky you can barely see beyond your mask but here we had 30 metres visibility.”



Source:; Nick Squires

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