The operation to salvage and refloat the Costa Concordia has started nearly six months since the Costa Cruises ship capsised off the coast of Tuscan island Isola del Giglio, Italy. Handling the $300 million salvage operation are Italian company Micoperi and US firm Titan Salvage. The ‘unprecedented’ procedure is expected to take a year to finish.
Earlier this week, salvage engineers moved the Titan-Micoperi salvage rig into place next to the Costa Concordia. The vessel capsised on Friday, January 13 after hitting an 80-tonne rock on a submerged reef. During the salvage operation, a cage will be built around the ship. Then barges with cranes will be anchored to the bed of the sea to help straighten and refloat the 114,000-tonne, 290-metre long vessel. When the ship is fixed upright, it will be towed to a dry dock and scrapped.
Giglio residents want the Concordia removed as soon as possible and without leaving any environmental impact to the area. The coast boasts a strong population of dolphins, whales and porpoises; and is a protected maritime park. Beaches on the island are also popular, with thousands of tourists visiting every summer.
Last week, it emerged that the rock on which the ship sits will be removed and turned into a memorial for the 30 crew and guests who died in the tragedy, while two people are still unaccounted for. Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli confirmed that the rock’s removal will cost £40,000, and this will be spent as part of the judicial investigation into the tragedy. Costa Cruises says this is what they want to happen, and it’s also what the island wants.
Ortelli continued that the memorial will be made so the island can pay tribute to those who died. They don’t know where the memorial will be positioned, but it will likely be near the harbour entrance so locals and visitors can clearly see it and pay their respects. He added that Giglio will never forget what happened on the night of the tragedy, and the rock will make a fitting memorial.
There were over 4,000 crew and holidaymakers on board the Concordia when the disaster happened just three hours after the vessel left port. Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino has been accused of changing the ship’s course so that it sailed closer to the Giglo coast. This was done in an attempt to impress crew, passengers and locals waiting on the island. However, the vessel sailed right into the path of a rock, tearing a 70-metre hole into the side of the hull before becoming stuck in the ship. Coastguards said at the time that they had never seen anything like it and described the rock lodged into the ship as unique.
Captain Schettino is currently under house arrest while prosecutors conduct an investigation into his actions. He has been charged with causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship, failing to inform maritime authorities of the situation and multiple counts of manslaughter. It’s alleged that he delayed the order to abandon ship for over an hour, which meant that it was too late to use the lifeboats by the time they were launched because the Concordia was leaning too much. Many of the crew and passengers had to make their own way off the ship via rope ladders.
Witnesses have also said that the captain was in a lifeboat while at least 300 people were still on the Concordia and in need of rescue. This accusation has led to claims that Schettino was a coward and saved himself rather than following maritime tradition and staying on board as long as he could to ensure everyone evacuated the vessel.
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