Refloating of ‘Costa Concordia’ to begin today

Ship to be towed off to Genoa to be dismantled

The ‘Costa Concordia’ being prepared to be towed off the coast near the port of Giglio in Italy yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Alessandro di Meo

The ‘Costa Concordia’ being prepared to be towed off the coast near the port of Giglio in Italy yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Alessandro di Meo

Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 09:13

It is all systems go, ready for lift off and keep your fingers crossed on the island of Giglio this morning when salvage experts attempt yet another delicate moment in the complex removal of the shipwrecked luxury liner, the Costa Concordia. 30 months after the ship ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio, with the loss of 32 lives, the cursed ship may, finally, be about to leave the island.

At approximately 6am this morning, the Concordia salvage team will attempt to refloat the stricken ship so that it can be towed off to the port of Genoa to be dismantled.

When you arrive back on Giglio, it would appear the Concordia is in exactly the same place as where we left it last September, in the wake of a successful “parbuckling” (righting) operation. In other words, the Concordia is upright but still two thirds submerged in shallow water just off the coast, resting on a purpose built platform. The potential drama will come today when the Italo-American Titan-Micoperi Salvage team led by South African salvage master Nick Sloan, attempts to move the ship off the platform.

Complex refloat

The complex refloat will be effected thanks to the use of 30 “caissons” or large metal boxes attached to the body of the wreck. During the parbuckling operation, these caissons were filled with water in order to act as ballast to help right the ship. Now, they will be drained of the water with compressed air being pumped in instead, in order to lift the ship more than 12 metres off its current platform.

Given that this is unchartered territory, no one can be certain as to just how the damaged wreck will react to being moved. Experts believe that raising the wreck for the first two metres could be the most dangerous moment because that could be when the ship, which has been lying in the shallow sea water just off the island coast for the last 30 months, might disintegrate.

This is probably a long shot, given that Nick Sloan and his team are confident that they have got all their preparations right, just as they did when it came to the parbuckling last September. However, environmentalists are on standby since if the ship did break up, then it would spill out a toxic mix of chemicals, rotten food and ship’s debris.

Speaking to The Irish Times last night, Mr Sloan was quietly optimistic that all would go well. He said that he and his team had carried out exhaustive tests and that the success of the parbuckling had been very encouraging. Mr Sloan, however, is the first to acknowledge that this morning’s salvage is a step into unchartered territory with this 1,000ft long, 200ft wide huge wreck.

It is not for nothing that the refloat begins today, on July 14th. Superstition argued against attempting the operation yesterday, on July 13th. Remember, the date of the night that the Costa Concordia ran aground was Friday 13th, January 2012. So, who says 13 is not unlucky?