Friday, September 28, 2012

Salvaging the 'Costa Concordia'

I'm sure readers remember the 'Costa Concordia' disaster last January.  Salvage operations to refloat the cruise liner prior to dismantling her are now under way.  Der Spiegel reports:

On the island of Giglio, they are currently preparing the most spectacular shipwreck towing maneuver in maritime history. Never before has such a colossal cruise ship been raised to an upright position. The vessel is 290 meters (951 feet) long and 36 meters (118 feet) wide. It has a displacement of 50,000 metric tons. To make matters worse, it's lying in a precarious position on a rocky slope and is in danger of sliding into deeper water. The salvage is expected to cost at least €300 million ($387 million) and will set new technical and environmental standards.

Indeed, the idea is to give a clean image to a tainted industry, to make a grand gesture after the grand fiasco. It's also hoped that, if the pleasure vessel can be salvaged in an exemplary fashion, it will send a strong signal to those who criticize the trend in the industry to build ever more enormous cruise ships. For Costa Crociere, the future is at stake; the shipping company has to win back trust.

. . .

In early May, four months after the ship ran aground, a technical committee comprised of representatives of the shipping company, shipbuilding companies and additional experts ... decided against cutting apart the Costa Concordia, and instead opted for the most expensive proposal -- the plan to bring the capsized ship to an upright position. To achieve this, they will use a kind of rolling maneuver called the parbuckling principle (see graphics gallery). For the experiment, 33-meter high watertight steel boxes, or caissons, will be attached to the sides of the ship and used as floats. From an underwater platform deeply anchored in the bedrock, 36 steel cables, each as thick as a lamppost, will extend to the upper edge of the caissons. These cables will be used to almost silently rotate the ship out of its tilted position. It will have taken one year to painstakingly prepare the maneuver, but it will require less than two hours to perform it -- if all goes well.

It has already become clear that the salvage operation with Titan Salvage and Micoperi has set the stage for the clash of two very different corporate cultures: One is a team of daredevil problem solvers who rope down from helicopters to the decks of stricken tankers and lasso abandoned ships on the high seas as if they were wild horses. The other is a group of designer engineers who work meticulously according to official guidelines, where each step is coordinated with the coast guard, the Environment Ministry, the region of Tuscany or the mayor of Giglio. In situations like this, Italy's bureaucrats can be very fussy. On numerous occasions, Micoperi engineers have urged their colleagues from Titan Salvage to show more respect for rules and regulations: "We are not in Bangladesh."

. . .

If everything goes according to plan, the ship will leave Giglio on May 28. This date is printed in bold letters on the work schedule in the salvage room. But it will be difficult for the ship to sail with its head high, as cruise ship aficionados and the shipping company would have wished for. The buoyancy of the towering caissons will not be enough to lift the ship much higher than the waterline. The ship will have a draft of 18 meters, instead of its former 8.2 meters. On its last voyage, the giant will resemble a fishing cutter on crutches that is creeping away from the scene. With a speed of 2 knots, the Costa Concordia will be as slow as a pedestrian ... The ship will probably be dismantled and scrapped in the harbor of Palermo.

There's much more at the link, plus a photo gallery and a series of graphic depictions of how the salvage will be accomplished.  All provide very interesting information for maritime geeks.



The Great and Powerful Oz said...

I'm afraid I have never seen the attraction in floating highrise hotels, so I don't care much about the industry.

Toejam said...

Yea OZ,

I concur with you.

A work mate once replied to a female in the office who was bragging about a wonderful 12 day cruise around the Caribbean.

His reply: Why would I spend a lot of money to spend 12 days with 2,000 people I neither know or most likely wouldn't like on a boat I could escape from?"

She frowned and walked away.

Frank and I "High-Fived" and went back to work.

Will said...

I find it interesting that they are planning to scrap the ship, instead of refurbing it and returning it to service. Was it so badly built that settling on the bottom and rolling onto its side did so much damage that it would exceed its replacement value to repair it? I notice the insurance people were not represented at this meeting.

Peter said...

Will, I suspect the bad publicity ruined any hope of bringing the ship back into service, irrespective of the damage (and the effect of lying semi-submerged for over a year).

Will said...

I should have looked up the info first. I forgot how many died, and that two are still missing.

What is somewhat surprising is how much they are paying to remove the ship, just to scrap it. Personally, I would think it best to allow it to slide down the slope into deep water, and leave it as is.

The petroleum products have been removed, so environmental concerns have been mitigated, mostly. It might have been useful as a home for sealife, if it didn't end up too deep. Maybe even a dive attraction, although with possible human remains onboard, that might be a legal problem.

Unfortunately, the island area is some sort of restricted marine sanctuary, so the enviro-whackos would never be able to get their heads around leaving the ship totally sunk. As if one more sunken ship in the Med would be intolerable. Ships/boats have been sinking there for many thousands of years. I'm thinking it would be neat to dam the sea at Gibraltar, and drain the Med. What a treasure/curio hunt that would be!

Will said...

Forgot to add:

"Constructive Salvage" means the insurance co now owns the ship. So, it's possible that after getting it into port, they could decide to reuse it.

Scott said...

What a monster of an operation... I can't imagine the headaches of righting that monster without breaking her.