Giglio Island

Concordia set upright in unprecedented feat

'Freed from rocks, fully rotated by dawn'

Concordia set upright in unprecedented feat

(By Christopher Livesay) Giglio Island, September 16 - The Costa Concordia cruise ship on Monday was successfully freed from the rock reef where it lay off the coast of Tuscany in what was considered the most delicate phase of righting the massive wreck in preparation for hauling it away. "The first two hours (of the operation) were the most uncertain, because we didn't know precisely how much of the ship was stuck," said Sergio Girotto, project manager with Italian off-shore engineering company Micoperi, which is in charge of the salvage operation along with US-based Titan Salvage. Girotto described the ship as now being perched on its "knees", meaning that it was placed on a levelled piece of seabed. The carcass of the liner will be fully righted by dawn Tuesday, he said. "There have been some physiological delays," he said. "We're satisfied, even considering the wait". The process of righting the ship, known as parbuckling, was scheduled to begin at dawn Monday but was delayed until 9:00 AM local time due to a storm. Another delay occurred in the evening when lifting cranes required cable maintenance that lasted one hour, the Civil Protection Agency said. Turning the half-sunken ship upright is a pivotal step in eventually hauling it away from the island of Giglio, where it has been on its side since crashing into rocks in January 2011, killing 32 people after an allegedly rash manoeuvre by Captain Francesco Schettino to "salute" local people. A search for two bodies still missing - passenger Maria Grazia Trecarichi and crewmember Russel Rebelli - will resume once the area is secured. Italy's Civil Protection chief Franco Gabrielli on Thursday called righting the capsized Costa Concordia "the first (undertaking) of its kind". At 60,000 tons, the water-logged ship is the biggest and most expensive salvage operation in history. Salvage costs have already reached 600 million euros, exceeding initial estimates by 200 million, even without factoring in the final costs of hauling away the wreckage. No one is certain the unprecedented operation will go according to plan given the 15-story, 4,000-passenger vessel's massive size - twice that of the Titanic. Crews have effectively welded a new ship onto the wreckage, attaching 30 giant steel pontoons to its sides to roll the ship in one piece onto a 1,000-ton underwater platform. Then they will float it away to be cut up for scrap in the Tuscan port city of Piombino, Italian Transport Undersecretary Erasmo D'Angelis said Monday. The wreckage had been destined for a scrapyard in Sicily. But the distance between that location and the crash site is too far, said D'Angelis. "It's difficult to imagine...the Costa Concordia traveling long distances, running risks of all types, not to mention enormously high costs," he said. The scrapping process is estimated to take two years, providing a highly sought-after jobs and revenue boost to the city that hosts it. For now, the wreckage will remain off the coast of the resort island throughout fall and winter, until improved conditions in the spring allow it to be floated away once and for all.

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