Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Costa Concordia capsized luxury Italian cruise ship is still sitting semi-submerged for over a year now off the coast of Tuscany. It is the largest passenger ship ever capsized easily surpassing the Titanic and removing the ship has turned out to be the most complicated and most expensive and the riskiest salvage operation ever to be an estimated cost of $400 Million dollars.
Now it is a rusting carcass sitting on two underwater peaks. Underwater is still furniture and debris with 30 dead people dead and 2 people still unaccounted for. It has been declared a crime scene by Italian officials. It has become an international salvage effort with experts in their field uniting to find a way to get rid of the thing in the most ecological safely way.
Nick Slone from South Africa is the Senior Salvage Master and has to figure out how to get 65% of the boat that is submerged in water out of the water. Now the plan is to roll the 60,000 ton ship in one piece onto a underwater steel platform, raise the ship and then float it away so it can be cut up for scrap. I say blow the thing up but then the beautiful waters off the coast of Tuscany could never be a lovely tourist attraction with that much trash spread all over the ocean floor.
The steel platform will have to be the length of three football fields. Most of the work is being done by Nick Slone’s American wreck removal company Titan Salvage and the engineering done by an Italian company called Micoperi. Even if they are able to turn the thing upright onto the steel platform, enough buoyancy must be created to get the thing to float. So, like putting water wings on your arms, they are going to weld in essence empty ships on either side of the thing to hopefully raise the boat to floating levels.
Yes, sadly I have been referring the cruise liner as a thing. The floating ships on the sides of the boat will weigh 500 tons per section and stand 11 stories high. They will be outfitted with hoses and air pumps to create buoyancy. One by one 9 of them will be welded to the exposed side of the ship. There will be 36 cables to pull the thing up. An effort of this scale has never been done anywhere in the world before.
No one is 100% sure that this effort will even be successful. It is the biggest passenger ship ever wrecked. Just a year ago it was a 15 story palace that could house a small town of 4,000 passengers. It had 1,500 luxury cabins, 18 restaurants and bars, 4 swimming pools, 5 Jacuzzi’s and a casino. Interestingly, it capsized on a Friday the 13th by being steered too close to shore where it struck a huge boulder near the shore that tore into the ship. Shouldn’t someone be watching the underwater sonar monitors? How do you not see a 96 ton rock?
Now the tiny touristy town of Giglio Island where the eyesore is stuck has been over run by support vessels and an army of welders, crane operators and marine engineers. Because of the angle of the ship, the workers must take a 4 day course in mountain climbing so they can safely scale the side of the exposed ship. Much of the salvage work is being done underwater with the help of 111 specially trained divers. Each diver has a 5 person support team on deck. Since they are diving to depths of 40 meters, after every 45 minutes they must emerge and immediately go into a decompression chamber. All the employees are housed in a ugly floating apartment building constructed off shore away in the middle of the water nearby.
While they come from 8 different countries speaking 8 different languages, they know each other well by now. There is a shift working 24/7 every day of the year to get this project going. Every storm weakens the rusting structure and makes it more unstable for lifting. Blow the thing up I say!!!
No, the reason they are putting this massive effort into lifting and taking the thing away from the region rather than let it all settle into the ocean is because the ship settled into a protected marine park and coral reef that is home to dolphins, exotic fish, huge 3 foot long mussels and to 700 other more botanical and animal species. How wonderful for once the environmentalists get first priority in a situation. They don’t expect to get that thing out of there for up to another year.

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