|Photo by Susan J. Young|
Today is the big day for Costa Concordia. For the first time since its January 2012 accident, the Costa Cruise Line (www.costacruises.com) ship is being raised into an upright position by salvage crews.
The unprecedented “parbuckling” operation by Crowley Maritime’s TITAN Salvage subsidiary and the Italian firm Micoperi began at 6 a.m. Central European Time today. It's expected to take anywhere from eight to 24 hours.
What’s parbuckling? Essentially, the ship – now lying on its side on a reef – will be rotated or rolled via use of dozens of pulleys.
After rotation, the hull will then be supported by an underwater platform the salvagers have built.
Two “sponsons,” which are humongous steel structures on either side of the ship, will provide the support the ship needs to remain upright.
Salvagers will then patch and repair the portion of the hull that’s been resting atop a sloping reef.
Once rotated and secured, the ship will remain in place off the coast of Giglio throughout the winter, a time when typically sea conditions are rough.
If all goes well, the ship with its attached sponsons will be towed away to another port next spring. Eventually it will be scrapped.
For the first three hours of the operation today, the ship didn't move, but finally the salvage team reported that after 6,000 pounds of pressure were applied – via a series of pulleys and counterweights – the ship began to come off its seabed perch.
While officials are confident the tricky salvage process will be successful, they also acknowledge there is no Plan B.
If the parbuckling effort doesn't work, the ship might have to be cut up in place off Giglio's coast. That's a problem from an environmental standpoint as those waters are within a protected marine eco-park.
Agents who wish to check out progress on the parbuckling progress might check out these Giglio Web cams, but expect high demand on all sites: http://costaconcordiawebcams.com.
The 952-foot-long Costa Concordia is the largest capsized passenger-vessel project that salvagers have ever tackled.
Thus far, more than 33,000 tons of steel have been fabricated, 18,000 tons of grout used and 13,000 individual underwater dives made.
For passengers and relatives of Costa Concordia's passengers and crew, the salvage effort brings back sad memories. Thirty-two people died in the accident; others were injured.
Two bodies are yet to be recovered. When the ship lifted off the seabed earlier today, salvagers had hoped they might find those remains but so far that hasn't happened.
Agents might check out these sites for additional information:
• The Titan Salvage Web site explains the steps in the parbuckling process: http://www.theparbucklingproject.com
• Costa Concordia – What Happened? A Step-by-Step Look at the Accident by BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16563562
• Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) press release detailing the new Passenger Bill of Rights: http://www.cruising.org/news/press_releases/2013/05/cruise-industry-adopts-passenger-bill-rights
• Italy’s Ministry of Infrastructures and Transport – Marine Casualties Investigative Body: Report on Costa Concordia Accident in May 2013: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16563562
• CBS News 60 Minutes – “Salvaging a Shipwreck” story reported by Leslie Stahl: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57600644/costa-concordia-salvaging-a-shipwreck
• Cruise Forward, CLIA’s site that outlines safety, operational and maritime efforts of the industry, many taken post-Concordia: www.cruiseforward.com and click on “industry practices”
In addition, CNN is broadcasting live video of the work today at Costa Concordia. Visit www.cnn.com.