Massive Salvage Effort Underway off Italian Coast

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 16 2013 3:24 PM

Massive Salvage Effort Underway off Italian Coast

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Caissons attached to the side of the stricken Costa Concordia and the cabling used to pull the ship upright are seen as the parbuckling project to raise the ship continues on September 16, 2013 in Isola del Giglio, Italy.

Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images

Engineers in Italy say they’ve successfully dislodged the Costa Concordia cruise ship from the rocks 20 months after it ran aground off the Italian coast killing 32 people.

The salvage mission is “one of the largest and most daunting salvage operations ever undertaken,” the BBC reports. 500 workers are attempting to recover the craft, which weighs in at some 114,500 tons and is nearly 1,000 feet long. The ship, which cost $570 million was carrying 4,200 passengers when it hit rocks off the Italian coast in January 2012.

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“Engineers used remote controls to guide a synchronized system of pulleys, counterweights and huge chains that were looped under the Concordia's carcass to delicately nudge the ship free from its rocky seabed,” the AP reports.

Here’s more on what’s next for the Costa Concordia from the AP:

Once the ship is upright, engineers hope to attach an equal number of tanks filled with water on the other side to balance the ship, anchor it and stabilize it during the winter months. The flat-keeled hull itself will be resting on a false seabed some 30 meters (100 feet) underwater.

When it comes time to tow the ship next spring, the tanks will gradually be emptied of the water. That will make the ship buoyant enough to float off the seabed like a pair of giant water wings.

Preparations for the salvage operation took 14 months, reports the New York Times, and the cost of the project has risen from $300 million to $799 million, according to Costa Cruises. The partially-submerged ship still contains chemicals, lubricants and diesel fuel from the engine rooms that could leak into the pristine surrounding waters, according to the Times.

In the aftermath of the Costa Concordia’s sinking, five members of the ship’s staff were sentenced to short prison sentences and the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is being tried on separate charges of manslaughter, causing a maritime disaster and abandoning ship.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.