Monday 20 November 2017

Inch by inch, stricken ship is slowly freed from rocks

INCH by inch, it emerged from beneath the waves – once sparkling white but now covered in algae and dripping slime.

As it was hauled into the bright autumn sunshine after 20 months lying under the sea, the port side of the Costa Concordia looked like it had been painted a dirty shade of brown with a giant paintbrush.

There was no hurry to speed up the process – one false move could endanger the whole operation, with the nightmare prospect of the ship breaking up and plunging to the depths.

"We are taking it slowly and very safely," said Sergio Girotto, one of the project's senior engineers.

After keeling over and smashing into the rocky shore on the night of January 13, 2012, the ship's now-exposed starboard side had suffered "great deformation" and substantial damage, he said.

The ship has to be raised by an angle of 65 degrees, but by sunset it had only been lifted 13 degrees.

A detail of the right side of the Costa Concordia is seen after it was lifted upright on the Tuscan Island of Giglio, Italy, early on Tuesday morning, September 17
A detail of the right side of the Costa Concordia is seen after it was lifted upright on the Tuscan Island of Giglio, Italy, early on Tuesday morning, September 17
The damaged side of the capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia
The damaged side of the capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia is seen at the end of the "parbuckling" operation
A detail of the right side of the Costa Concordia is seen after it was lifted upright
A detail of the right side of the Costa Concordia is seen after it was lifted upright
The Costa Concordia is seen after it was lifted upright on the Tuscan Island of Giglio, Italy, early on Tuesday morning, September 17
The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia is shown in this combination picture taken during and at the end (bottom) of the "parbuckling" operation outside Giglio harbour September 17, 2013
The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia is shown in this combination picture taken during and at the end (bottom) of the "parbuckling" operation outside Giglio harbour.
The 19-hour operation to right the Costa Concordia
The 19-hour operation to right the Costa Concordia
The 19-hour operation to right the Costa Concordia
The 19-hour operation to right the Costa Concordia
The head of the parbuckling project Nick Sloane talks with reporters at the end of the "parbuckling" operation at the Giglio harbour

Officials expressed cautious optimism that the raising of the Concordia – the biggest passenger ship ever to have capsized – would be a success.

"The game is not over but things are going according to plan," said Franco Gabrielli, the Italian official in overall command of the operation.

"The engineers are being very careful and they are doing a lot of checks."

It was not until three hours after the operation commenced that 6,000 tonnes of pressure exerted on the ship by a carefully planned system of steel cables and winches managed to wrench it free of the two granite spikes on which it has been wedged since capsizing.

As the ship tilts upright further, huge steel compartments on its seaward side will fill with water, with the weight helping to pull the vessel into a vertical position.

Thirty-two people died in the disaster but the bodies of two of the victims have still not been recovered – Russel Rebello, an Indian waiter, and Maria Grazia Trecarichi, a passenger from Sicily who was on the cruise to celebrate her 50th birthday.

GRAVE

Officials said remote-operated, unmanned submarines had so far failed to pick up any trace of human remains.

Survivors of the disaster said the finding of the bodies was a priority.

"They must still be under the keel of the Concordia and I hope after this finally they will have a grave they can cry over."

The technique used to raise the Concordia – known as 'parbuckling' – has its origins in the 19th Century and entails rotating a sunken ship back to a vertical position.

Once the ship is raised upright, it will remain on an artificial seabed made up of six steel platforms and hundreds of sacks of cement.

It will take weeks for it to be patched up and stabilised, by which time winter storms and rough seas will make it too risky to tow it away from the island.

It will not be removed until next year, when it will be taken to an Italian port and broken up for scrap. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

By Nick Squires

Irish Independent

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