Costa Concordia salvage nears final phase

Mon Sep 16, 2013 7:43pm EDT
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By James Mackenzie

GIGLIO, Italy (Reuters) - Salvage crews lifted the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner off a rock shelf on Monday as they worked deep into the night to complete one of the most difficult and expensive maritime salvage operations ever undertaken.

The 114,500-ton Concordia has lain half-submerged on its side just off the Italian island of Giglio since it ran aground and sank with the loss of 32 lives on January 13, 2012.

After a day of slow and painstaking work, the ship had been lifted by more than 25 degrees from its original resting place and progress towards bringing it fully upright was expected to take no more than a few hours.

"We have started the final phase of the rotation," Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy's Civil Protection Authority told reporters. "We are approaching the final phase of the operation," he said, adding that the operation could be complete by 4.00 a.m (1000 ET).

Work began at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) after a three-hour delay due to an overnight storm and progress was slower than originally estimated but engineers said the project had matched their expectations fully.

"Everything has gone has gone smoothly, as expected and this last phase should go as safely as possible," said Franco Porcellacchia, leader of Costa Cruise's technical team.

As searchlights lit up the salvage scene in the port of Giglio, the flank of the ship was entirely off the rock shelf and raised far enough out of the sea to reveal a dirty brown water mark staining the white hull.

The Concordia was carrying more than 4,000 people when it hit rocks off Giglio and capsized. Two bodies have yet to be recovered and underwater cameras failed to find any sign of them as darkness fell.   Continued...

The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia lies on its side during the "parbuckling" operation next to Giglio Island. REUTERS/Tony Gentile