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Costa Concordia

Removing The Wreckage

Almost ten months after the Costa Concordia ran aground in the pristine waters of the Mediterranean, the massive and technologically complex task of removing the wreckage begins.  The following is an extract from an article in the New Zealand Herald.  (Click here to see the original.)

October 27, 2012

A multinational team of 450 engineers, divers and mariners has secured the ship to Giglio’s rocky seashore with giant cables looped under its belly and attached to a series of landward anchor points.

They are about to embark on the daunting challenge of preparing the ship to be hauled upright and refloated so that it can be towed for demolition.

wreck of the Costa Concordia
The duration and cost of the operation has already exceeded original estimates.

It is now expected to cost at least US$400 million, rather than the US$300 million originally quoted, and is expected to be removed from the island by June at the earliest, rather than three months earlier, as first envisaged.

Everything about the salvage operation is on an epic scale.

“All the numbers are mind-blowing,” said Captain Peter Bouchard, a British master mariner who was recruited from his home in Georgetown, Guyana.

“This operation is pushing the boundaries of marine technology.  There is no other job this size in the world.”

The ship is impaled on two huge granite outcrops which have pierced its hull.  Beneath it is a gap measuring 10m deep and 50m across.

That has to be filled so the ship does not snap in two when it is hauled upright.  To do that, sacks containing nearly 18,000 tonnes of cement will be positioned beneath the ship.

The cement will be funnelled into the bags through tubes by about 100 divers, assisted by seven underwater robots known as ROVs - remote operated vehicles, which are guided by fibre-optic wires.

The divers will work in shifts around the clock, eating and sleeping on board the Pioneer, a British supply ship that will produce 18,000 meals a month.

Ten decompression chambers will be available for divers who get into trouble underwater.

Salvage experts will then build six immense steel and concrete platforms, together the size of a rugby field, onto which the ship will be rolled.

The ship will be pulled upright with steel cables and hydraulic jacks attached to the underwater platform.

It will be given buoyancy by 15 giant “sponsons” or hollow compartments which will be welded onto its port side.

The largest of the compartments are more than 30m long - the height of an 11-storey building - and weigh up to 600 tonnes each.

Once the ship is upright, another 15 sponsons will be attached to its starboard side and it will be refloated.

It will then be towed away from Giglio by tugs, probably to be broken up for scrap in a nearby Italian port.

“To get the sponsons lined up exactly so that we can weld them on is no small feat,” said Captain Nick Sloane, a South African who is in charge of the salvage operation.

“This is an unprecedented operation.  It’s the biggest ship recovery operation ever, by quite some margin.”

As the recovery effort steps up in tempo, the inhabitants of Giglio are praying that it all goes smoothly.

The nightmare would be for the ship to break up during the operation, emptying a foul stew of rotted food, chemicals and decomposing furniture, mattresses and passengers’ possessions into the island’s pristine waters.

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