An aerial view shows the Costa Concordia lying on its side
next to Giglio Island. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
A daring attempt to pull the shipwrecked Costa Concordia
upright will go ahead today, Italian officials have confirmed.
The Civil Protection agency said the sea and weather
conditions were right for the salvage attempt off the Italian
island of Giglio, one of the most complex recoveries ever
Lying on its side on a rock shelf just outside the harbour
mouth, the 114,500 tonne vessel is the length of three
football pitches and appears almost as big as the tiny Tuscan
port where it was holed and sunk with the loss of 32 lives on
January 13 last year.
A multinational team of 500 salvage engineers has occupied
the island for most of the past year, stabilising the hulk
and preparing for the start of the lifting work, which is
expected to begin this afternoon.
If all goes as planned and the weather remainsfine, a
so-called "parbuckling" operation will see the ship rotated
by a series of cables and hydraulic machines, pulling the
hulk from above and below and slowly twisting it upright.
Engineers say they are confident the 12-hour parbuckling
project will work but there is no 100
percent guarantee that nothing will go wrong.
"The size of the ship and her location make this the most
challenging operation I've ever
been involved in," said Nick Sloane, a South African with
three decades of experience who is leading the project for
contractors Titan Salvage.
the ship is upright, it will be stabilised before being
eventually towed away to be broken up for scrap. Alternative
approaches, such as breaking the ship up on the spot, were
rejected as too complicated.
According to reinsurer Munich Re, the overall insurance loss
from the accident could surpass $US1.1 billion. As much as
half of that may be swallowed up by the cost of the salvage
"I think now it's the most expensive wreck removal operation
in history," said Rahul Khanna, a former tanker and bulk
carrier captain and now a senior marine risk consultant with
the shipping insurance arm of Allianz.
"We have our fingers crossed on it and we just hope that this
is a success because if it is not, I don't even want to think
what the financial consequences would be," he said.
The cost of the salvage operation, which a senior official
from the ship's owner Costa Cruises this week estimated at
600 million euros ($US800 million) "and rising", is already
expected to be greater than the value of the vessel itself.
That compared with other complex salvage operations like the
MV Rena, a huge container ship which sank in New Zealand in
2011, whose salvage costs are estimated at around $US240
By coincidence, the salvage operation will take place on the
same day as the annual conference of the International Union
of Marine Insurance in London.
"And as you can imagine, there'll only be one subject of
conversation," said one industry executive.
Cruise ships have traditionally been among the safest big
vessels but the insurance industry has faced a growing
challenge from a new breed of superships like the Costa
Concordia and the monstrous new bulk cargo carriers that have
emerged with the rise in global trade volumes.
Around two-and-a-half times the size of the Titanic, the
Costa Concordia was typical of the latest generation of
cruise liners, built to carry thousands of passengers and
keep them entertained with restaurants, cinemas and bars.
Similar developments have been seen with the bulk cargo
carriers, the largest of which can carry up to 18,000
"These are massive ships now and if something goes wrong we
have some serious challenges, especially where they're
pushing the boundaries of design," Khanna said.
Insurance underwriters have grappled with the new risk
profile presented by the massive new ships and considerable
attention has been focused on the cost of recovery and
repairing environmental damage in case of any accident.
"If such a vessel were to get into trouble or run aground in
a remote location, it might take up to two years just to
remove the containers," he said. "These are the kind of
things which worry the industry."
As the salvage teams in Giglio start their preparations, the
experience gained in shifting the Costa Concordia should
provide some guide as to how feasible other difficult wreck
recoveries may prove in the future.
"This whole operation is very new so everybody is very keen
to look at how it is done and hopefully it will be
successful," Khanna said.