For 20 months the shipwrecked Costa Concordia has been lying on its side near the coast of Giglio, a small Italian island. The steel hulk served as a reminder of a trip that went horribly wrong. But on Tuesday, as part of the largest salvage operation ever conducted, the massive cruise ship was finally moved to the upright position. The next step is for the vessel to be removed from the area entirely.
The Costa Concordia is twice the weight of the Titanic. The ship itself didn't budge for the first three hours of the operation, engineer Sergio Girotto told reporters. He and other engineers worked for 19 hours before Concordia was declared completely upright at 4 a.m. Central European Time. The people of Giglio, having gathered to watch the operation, applauded upon seeing it completed.
“I think the whole team is proud of what they achieved because a lot of people didn’t think it could be done,” said salvage master Nick Sloane, according to the BBC.
Disaster at Sea
The Costa Concordia capsized on Jan. 13, 2012, after its captain, Francesco Schettino, brought the ship too close to the shore. The ship hit coastal rocks, which caused massive damage and allowed water to pour in. Most of the 4,200 people onboard made it to land safely but more than 30 people were killed in the disaster. Two people remain missing.
The Concordia’s captain is currently on trial for causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), which regulates ship safety around the world, promised to look at improving safety procedures.
A Daring Operation
The operation to right the ship is called parbuckling. While parbuckling is a standard operation to right capsized ships, it has never before been used on such a huge cruise liner. Workers had been waiting for favorable weather conditions to undertake the operation. On Monday, authorities gave the final go-ahead.
The process was expected to take no more than 12 hours. But problems with the large system of steel chains caused delays. Engineers worked through the night using cables and metal water tanks to roll the ship onto special platforms.
The Concordia is expected to be pulled away from Giglio in the spring of 2014 and turned into scrap metal. The ship’s owner, Costa Cruises, will pay for the recovery, which has already cost more than $800 million.
"We will have a lot of things in the next few days to understand what needs to be done to bring this venture to a conclusion," said Franco Porcellacchia, project manager for Costa Cruises.