Illustration showing the Costa Concordia onboard Dockwise Vanguard. Image courtesy Boskalis

Illustration showing the Costa Concordia onboard Dockwise Vanguard. Image courtesy Boskalis

Owners of the Costa Concordia have contracted the world’s largest semi-submersible heavy lift ship to lift the now-upright shipwreck and carry it, not tow it, to a location where it will be scrapped.

That’s right… if all goes as planned, the Costa Concordia will be lifted -in one piece- and transported onboard a ship to its final destination.

WATCH: Animation shows Costa Concordia Float-On

Heavy lift company Dockwise, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Netherlands-based Royal Boskalis Westminster, said Thursday it has been awarded a contract from Costa Crociere to load and transport the Costa Concordia wreckage from Isola del Giglio onboard the companies new Type-O vessel, Dockwise Vanguard.

Dockwise Vanguard heavy lift

Dockwise Vanguard. Rendering courtesy Dockwise

With 117,000 metric ton lifting capacity, the Dockwise Vanguard is the world’s largest semi-submersible ship uniquely positioned to lift and transport massive cargoes in a dry and safe manner. The ship was initially designed to transport offshore oil and gas structures, but can also carry other vessels or even act as an offshore dry dock facility.

The Dockwise Vanguard features an open and flat stern and bow-less deck measuring 275 meters by 70 meters allowing the vessel to transport cargo longer and wider than the deck itself. When the ballast tanks are flooded, the ship deck submerges below the surface, allowing her to handle deep draught cargoes such as the Costa Concordia. Once the Dockwise Vanguard is submersed, the refloated Costa Concordia will be brought into position above the deck and as the ballast tanks are emptied, the entire ship including the Costa Concordia is brought above the water line, completely eliminating the need to tow the wreck into open water.

Once loaded, the Dockwise Vanguard will transport the wreckage to an as of yet undecided location where it will be offloaded -either by float off or “skid off,” meaning transferred directly to a pier- and eventually scrapped. Original plans called for the Costa Concordia to be refloated and towed to a port in Italy for demolition, but by using the Dockwise Vanguard, once the ship is loaded, the options for scrapping are wide open.

“As we’ve always stated since the beginning of project, Costa’s goal is to remove the Concordia wreck from Giglio in a safe and swift way and to do this we have always taken into consideration all the possible alternatives and state of the art technologies,” states Franco Porcellacchia, Concordia Wreck Removal Project coordinator for Costa/Carnival.

However, this plan is not 100% set in stone, yet.

In fact, the official Costa Concordia wreck removal website says Costa Crociere has only “secured the availability” of the Dockwise Vanguard as “one of the possible options for the removal.” But, the press release from Boskalis is pretty convincing that this is the plan, and even gives a timeline of when the operation will take place (mid-2014), a contract value ($30 million) and also says that certain modifications are going to be made to the Dockwise Vanguard to accommodate the loading of the Costa Concordia in its current state.

So for now we still need to see how the wreck holds up to the winter weather and how the attachment of the starboard-sponsons and refloating pans out. But just when you thought the largest, most complex salvage in history couldn’t get any more large or complex, they go and do something like this. WOW.

Photos of Dockwise Vanguard (Disclaimer: Yes, these photos are real):

dockwise vanguard malo st. jack

The Dockwise Vanguard’s first cargo, the Jack/St. Malo semisubmersible. Image (c) 2013 Dockwise

dockwise vanguard malo st. jack

Image (c) 2013 Dockwise

dockwise vanguard malo st. jack

Image (c) 2013 Dockwise

dockwise vanguard drilling rig

Image (c) 2013 Dockwise

dockwise vanguard

Dockwise Vanguard under construction at Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea. Image courtesy Amarcon

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