Cruise line reveals plan to remove wrecked Concordia

May 18 2012 - 3:51pm

MIAMI -- In an operation that could take up to a year, salvage companies will refloat the wrecked Costa Concordia so it can be removed from Italian waters.

The complicated and lengthy process of removing the partially submerged Costa Concordia from Italian waters will begin in a few days, Italy-based cruise line Costa Crociere said Friday.

Releasing details of the operation for the first time, the cruise operator and salvage companies that will do the work said protection of the island of Giglio's environment, economy and tourism business will be priorities during the estimated 12-month process.

The Costa Concordia wrecked near Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany, in January. Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of taking the ship on an unauthorized path too close to shore. Thirty bodies have been recovered; two are still missing. Costa is owned by Carnival Corp., which is based in Miami.

Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Titan Salvage and Micoperi, an Italian marine contractor, detailed a plan that would refloat the hull in one piece.

Once the ship is stabilized, the work will be break down into four stages:

--An underwater platform will be built and caissons, or structures used for underwater work, will be attached to the side of the ship that's above water.

--Two cranes will be fixed to the platform. They, along with the caissons that will be filled with water, will pull the ship upright.

--Once the ship is upright, caissons will be fixed to the other side of the hull.

--Water will be drained from both sets of caissons, which will be filled with air.

After it is floated, the ship will be towed to an Italian port. Costa said that once the Concordia is removed, the sea floor will be cleaned and marina flora that has been affected will be replanted.

Costa Crociere President Gianni Onorato said in a statement that the operator is committed to minimizing the impact on the island the surrounding environment.

"As was the case with the fuel-removal operation, we have always worked to find the best possible and safest solution to protect the island, its marine environment and its tourism industry," he said. "We are now launching a salvage operation with characteristics and technical complexities that have never been faced before. There will inevitably be some unknowns in a project of this scope, but we are sure we have made the right decision and will continue to work to our best ability and on schedule."

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(c)2012 The Miami Herald

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