independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Shipwrecked Concordia 'vertical'

The Costa Concordia is seen after it was lifted upright on the Tuscan island of Giglio (AP)

The crippled Costa Concordia cruise ship has been pulled completely upright after a complicated, 19-hour operation to wrench it from its side where it capsized last year off Tuscany, with officials declaring it a "perfect" end to a daring and unprecedented engineering feat.

Shortly after 3am BST, a foghorn wailed on Giglio Island and the head of Italy's Civil Protection agency, Franco Gabrielli, announced that the ship had reached vertical and that the operation to rotate it - known in nautical terms as parbuckling - was complete.

"We completed the parbuckling operation a few minutes ago the way we thought it would happen and the way we hoped it would happen," said Franco Porcellacchia, project manager for the Concordia's owner, Costa Crociere SpA. "A perfect operation, I must say" with no environmental spill detected so far, he said.

Applause rang out among firefighters in the tent where Mr Gabrielli and other project engineers made the announcement.

The Concordia rammed into a reef of Giglio Island on January 13, 2012, after the captain brought it too close to shore. It drifted, listed and capsized just off the island's port, killing 32 people. Two bodies were never recovered.

The operation to right it had been expected to take no more than 12 hours, but dragged on after some initial delays with the vast system of steel cables, pulleys and counterweights. The final phase of the rotation went remarkably fast as gravity began to kick in and pull the ship toward its normal position.

Parbuckling is a standard operation to right capsized ships. But never before had it been used on such a huge cruise liner. The ship is expected to be floated away from Giglio in the spring and turned into scrap.

Helping the Concordia to weather the winter is an artificial platform on the seabed that was constructed to support the ship's flat keel.

About an hour before the rotation was complete, observers said the boat seemed to suddenly settle down upon its new perch.

The Concordia's captain is on trial for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship during the chaotic and delayed evacuation. Capt Francesco Schettino claims the reef wasn't on the nautical charts for the liner's weeklong Mediterranean cruise.

Press Association

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