Shipwrecked Concordia pulled upright

September 17, 2013

The crippled Costa Concordia cruise ship was pulled upright early Tuesday after a complicated, 19-hour operation to wrench it from its side where it capsized last year off Tuscany, with officials declaring it a “perfect” end to a daring and unprecedented engineering feat.

Shortly after 4 a.m., a foghorn wailed on Giglio Island and the head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department, Franco Gabrielli, declared the ship vertical and said the operation to rotate it — known in nautical terms as parbuckling — was complete.

“We completed the parbuckling operation a few minutes ago the way we thought it would happen and the way we hoped it would happen,” said Franco Porcellacchia, project manager for the Concordia’s owner, Costa Crociere.

“A perfect operation, I must say,” with no environmental spill detected, he said.

Applause rang out among firefighters in the tent where Gabrielli and other project engineers made the announcement.

The Concordia rammed into a reef off Giglio Island on Jan. 13, 2012, after the captain brought it too close to shore. It drifted, listed and capsized just off the island’s port, killing 32 people. Two bodies were never recovered.

The operation to right it had been expected to take no more than 12 hours, but it dragged on after some initial delays with the vast system of steel cables, pulleys and counterweights. The final phase of the rotation went remarkably fast as gravity began to kick in and pull the ship toward its normal position.

Parbuckling is a standard operation to right capsized ships. But never before had it been used on such a huge cruise liner.

The ship is expected to be floated away from Giglio in the spring and turned into scrap.

Porcellacchia said an initial inspection of the starboard side, covered in brown slime from its 20 months underwater while the ship was stuck on a rocky seabed perch, “looks pretty bad.”

That is the side of the hull that was raised 65 degrees in the operation. Crews might have to do extensive work on that side to ready it for the attachment of empty tanks that will be used to help float the vessel away. It must also be made strong enough to survive a second winter storm season, when high seas and gusts are likely to buffet the 115,000-ton, 1,000-foot-long liner.

Helping the Concordia weather the winter is an artificial platform on the seabed that was constructed to support the ship’s flat keel.

“The ship is resting on its platform,” Gabrielli said.

About an hour before the rotation was complete, observers said the boat seemed to suddenly settle down upon its new perch.

The Concordia’s captain is on trial on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship during the evacuation.

— Associated Press

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