More than a year after the Costa Concordia ran aground off the Italian coast, the ship remains where it wrecked. More than 400 workers are attempting one of the largest salvage operations in history, a process that will cost around R3,6 billion and will take at least until the middle of this year to complete. They have a tough slog ahead: just removing the 1 900 tons of fuel took 31 days and 20 vessels.
Because the ruined ship is lying on its side, the engineering teams have to hoist it upright – preserving a sea bed lush with coral, sea-grass meadows and giant clams – before towing it to a safe harbour for disassembly.
By Mary Beth Griggs
How they’ll raise it:
Build the base
The wreck sits atop a steep incline. To get it off the rocks without sending it to the ocean floor, the salvage team must first build a support for it to rest on. Workers will wedge massive bags of grout beneath the hull to distribute the ship’s weight more evenly. Then they’ll drill into the rock below and install six platforms.
Right the ship
Engineers will weld 15 massive floats, or sponsons, to the exposed side of the ship. Cables will be attached to the sponsons and the platforms. Hydraulic jacks slowly pull the ship upright over two days.
Raise the ship
Once they’ve righted the ship, workers will attach 15 sponsons to the side formerly under water. The sponsons, partially filled with water, keep the ship level with the seafloor. The floats will gradually fill with air and raise the craft to the surface.