If you follow cruise industry news, or if you follow the news at all, you’ll probably know plenty about the Costa Concordia disaster. You’ll recall that the Costa Concordia, a cruise ship that could hold over 4,000 passengers, crashed into rocks near the Isola del Giglio, Italy, an accident causing 32 deaths, because its captain, Francesco Schettino, sailed too close to shore. However, this tragedy happened nearly two years ago, and you probably haven’t heard much about the ship since then. What happened to the Costa Concordia? Do the waters off the coast Giglio now have a permanent shipwreck site, or are they going raise the Costa Concordia and get it out of there? At last, there is some new information on this front, and the plan, by no means guaranteed to be successful, is to remove the ship from its current, tenuous resting place, possibly as soon as this Monday. Below are the most recent updates about the Costa Concordia.
Given that the shipwreck happened 20 months ago, you might think it’s somewhat surprising that it has taken this long to get rid of the ship. However, the delay has been entirely understandable given the complexity of the situation. First and most obviously, there is nothing easy about dragging a ship as large as the Costa Concordia to a safe place to disassemble. The vessel weighs 114,000 tons and is 952 feet (290 meters) long, and it is structurally weak in certain places. It is also awkwardly positioned on the side of an underwater slope, which is why it is currently tilted almost on its side. Clearly, the ship can’t just be dragged away with a few tugboats. Rather, the plan is to rotate the ship back to an upright position, a process known as “parbuckling.” Platforms have already been built underwater for the ship to rest on after the rotation is complete, assuming everything works as it should.
A few additional factors further complicate an already complex operation. First, the water off the coast of Giglio must be protected, so it is crucial that the ship doesn’t break apart during the parbuckling process. Indeed, the entire reason the ship is being parbuckled is to protect these waters; it was never an option to simply break the ship apart and take it piece by piece because of the environmental risks of doing so. The goal is to keep the ship in one piece so it can eventually be towed to a port. Moreover, there are believed to be two bodies still inside the ship, and the safe recovering of these remains requires the parbuckling to work smoothly. And finally, once the rotation is underway, it can’t be halted or tried again. The point of no return will be crossed right as the project begins.
Despite the complexity of the operation, obviously something has to be done with the Costa Concordia. As of now, it looks like a wrecked island city, an enormous artificial mass of steel and glass that is only a few hundred meters from Giglio’s shores. What’s more, the Costa Concordia must be dealt with soon, as it cannot stay in its current delicate situation for another winter. As long as the weather holds up (bad weather has been one reason the removal process has taken so long), the ship is scheduled to be raised on Monday, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that everything goes according to plan.
As an update, everything did go more or less according to plan, as the Costa Concordia was successfully raised.