Dutch captain unfazed over role in Costa Concordia salvage

Sunken liner’s final trip from Giglio to Genoa expected to take place on Tuesday

Timelapse video filmed from midday on Sunday until Monday morning shows the prow of the Costa Concordia rise from the sea, as final preparations to ready the ship for her final journey near completion. Video: Reuters

Sun, Jul 20, 2014, 18:47

For a man with a serious weight of responsibility sitting on his shoulders, Dutch tug captain, Hans Bosch, sounded very confident at a press conference this afternoon on the island of Giglio.

Bosch is the man in charge of the delicate towing operation in which the stricken luxury liner, the Costa Concordia, will finally be towed away from the island of Giglio, destined for Genoa and immediate destruction.

Two and a half years after she ran aground off the island with the loss of 32 lives in January 2012, the Concordia seems finally ready to make her last journey. It had been hoped to start out tomorrow but forecasts of 40 km/h winds have counselled against that plan with the “blast off” now scheduled for some time on the morning of Tuesday.

Reassuringly, weather experts on Giglio today reported that the outlook for the rest of the week is for a calm sea and no wind. All of which means that the conditions between Tuesday and next Saturday when the Concordia is expected to limp into the port of Genoa should be perfect.

Whilst this complex salvage operation has thus far been led by South African Nick Sloan on behalf of the Anglo-Italian Titan Micoperi company, it will be Dutchman Bosch who assumes command of all operations whilst the actual towing is ongoing. Talking to reporters today, he sounded quietly unfazed about an operation which objectively remains problematic.

He indicated that he has had experience of towing ships as large as the Concordia before, whilst when asked what he would do if for some reason he had to stop the Concordia in a relatively short space, his answer seemed disarmingly simple. Rather than tow the ship with the regulation two tugs, you tow it with just one thus turning it through 90° or more to bring it to a halt.

Whilst the Concordia will be accompanied by a 14 ship armada of salvage experts, environmentalists and pollution response teams, the two key ships in the pack are the two tugs which will tow the Concordia from the front. Comandante Bosch will travel in the Blizzard tug, which de facto becomes the leader of the pack. Using 70 millimetre chains at a distance of 700-800 metres from the ship, the two tugs will pull the Concordia along at a very steady 2.5 knots per hour. The wreck itself will travel trust up in a steel straightjacket created by bouyancy sponsons attached to both sides.

Comandante Bosch said that he will wait until the last possible moment on Tuesday morning before deciding his departure route to Genoa. Ideally, he would leave the island by sailing directly north but weather conditions may urge him to use a more protected route, sailing south-west and then north. He also said that, if and when the convoy should encounter rough conditions, there would be no especial difficulty about sheltering close to the Tuscan/Ligurian coastline.

Despite the comandante’s seeming confidence, this clearly remains a complex operation since no one can say for certain how the Concordia, which has been two thirds submerged in the meditteranean for the last 30 months, will react once it hits the open sea just after it has sailed past the island of Corsica. Comandante Bosch admitted that this will be the most delicate moment in the whole towing operation.

Just to remind the salvage team of the possibility of unpleasant surprises, technicians late last night discovered traces of both engine fuel and sulphuric acid H25 during the ongoing refloat process, begun last Monday week. Project engineer, Franco Porcellachia, minimised the impact of this “very modest” oil spill, pointing out that as the refloat continues, there may be other such surprises.

At the moment, four levels or decks have emerged from the water whilst by the time the wreck is towed away, it is hoped to have raised it by a total of approximately 12 metres. Throughout the day, technicians could be seen inspecting the newly emerged decks for potential problems.

One final consideration concerns the environmentalist lobby. Given the controversial aspects of this operation, some observers argue that Greenpeace or some such like-minded movement may yet stage a last minute protest that could slow up the ship’s removal. For the time being, however, there is no confirmation of such a protest.