Monday, May 21, 2018
Business

Shipwrecked Concordia to be removed in June

ROME — The Costa Concordia cruise shipwreck will be removed from its watery graveyard off Tuscany in June and taken to a port to be dismantled, the final phase of an unprecedented $817 million salvage effort.

At a news conference Friday, Italy's civil protection chief and Costa Crociere officials gave the timetable and the rundown of what was needed for the ship to be refloated. They spoke just days before the second anniversary of the ship's Jan. 13, 2012, grounding that killed 32 people.

Costa is a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise line operator.

A handful of Italian ports are bidding to take in the wreck and dismantle it for scrap. Ports in France, Turkey, Britain and even China are also bidding for the job.

Italy's environment minister, Andrea Orlando, and the head of Costa Crociere SpA, Michael Thamm, said the preference was to keep the project in Italy, both to limit potential environmental damage while the hobbled ship is in transit and to keep any economic benefits at home.

A decision on the winning bid is expected in March, they said.

The Concordia slammed into a reef off the island of Giglio when its captain took it off course in an apparent stunt to bring it closer to the island. With a 230-foot gash in its hull, the ship listed for an hour and finally capsized off Giglio's port.

Capt. Francesco Schettino is on trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all the passengers had been evacuated.

In a remarkable 19-hour engineering feat in September, salvage operators righted the Concordia from its side and brought it to rest upright on a false seabed. Since then, crews have stabilized the giant ship and prepared its heavily damaged starboard side to be outfitted with giant tanks that will help float it.

The 15 tanks, which will mirror 15 tanks on the port side, will likely be affixed in April amid calmer seas and better weather, said Franco Porcellacchia, Costa's project manager. The tanks will be filled with water and then gradually emptied to provide the buoyancy needed to float the ship off the seabed.

That timetable should allow the wreck to be towed away sometime in June, said Franco Gabrielli, Italy's civil protection chief who has been overseeing the salvage operation.

Not every port can accommodate such a huge wreck. The winning port must not only have the facilities to dismantle and recycle the ship, it must also have an unusually deep harbor: The 1,000-foot-long Concordia normally sailed with 26 feet of hull under water. But because of the damage, the Concordia will limp into its final port of call with 61 feet of hull submerged.

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