On the night of January 13, 2012, the 114,500 ton Costa Concordia ran aground at Isola del Giglio, Italy, killing 32 people and eventually coming to rest alongside a reef just outside the sleepy island’s only port. The event kicked off a flurry of regulatory changes in the cruise ship industry, not to mention what would become the largest and most expensive maritime salvage in history.
A team consisting of Titan Salvage, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Crowley Maritime Corp., and the Italian firm Micoperi won the tender for the ship’s removal. The plan was to raise the vessel in one piece using an age-old technique known as “parbuckling,” which basically means using leverage to rotate a ship or large opbject to an upright position, before towing it away from the island. Use of the technique has been done before, perhaps most notably to right U.S. Navy ships following the attack on Pearl Harbor, only never on this scale.
Over the last year a team of about 500 salvage workers and engineers has worked around the clock to make sure the parbuckling, easily the most crucial part of salvage, went off without a hitch. There was no plan B, so it had to work… and it did.
Here is a collection of pictures from the operation to upright, or parbuckle, the Costa Concordia:
The Costa Concordia wreck site as seen from the air. This photo was taken August 26, 2013 as final preparations for the parbuckling were being made.
Nick Sloane, the South African Salvage Master who has led the operation for the Titan-Micoperi consortium, stands in front of the shipwreck in the days leading up to the parbuckling. Little did he know then that the successful parbuckling would earn him rockstar status. Ok maybe he knew.
The parbuckling operation was expected to start at 6 a.m. CEST (local Giglio time) on September 16, 2013 and last 10 to 12 hours, however, overnight thunderstorms prevented salvage crews from making final preparations.
The parbuckling would eventually begin at 9 a.m., three hours behind schedule. Live coverage of the entire event was streamed into the homes of millions by nearly every major news outlet.
On Monday morning, Giglio awoke to a beautiful sunrise. All the more reason to get the ship out of there.
The parbuckling itself was a slow process. It was hard to tell with the naked eye if anything at all was happening if it wasn’t for the ever-growing, perfectly straight line of brown scum from the parts of the ship that have been submerged for the last 20 months.
The picture below gives a good view of the strand jacks, which were connected to the underwater platforms and sponsons and used to pull the ship upright.
The brown scum grew, proof positive that the parbuckling was working, albeit slowly.
Not only was the parbuckling viewed online, but thousands hugged the shores of the island to watch the historic salvage.
As the ship was raised, salvage crews worked on the parts of the ship previously hidden beneath the waves to clear any obstructions that may get in the way. (Actually in the photo below, crews are seen removing mysterious grafitti from the deck. Italian “Meow Man” maybe? Who knows…)
About midway through the first phase of the operation, officials gave an update that the ship had been rotated 10 degrees from its starting position and was now entirely off the reef for the first time in nearly two years. A sigh of relief for sure, as it was unclear just how firmly the ship was wedged into the rock prior to the lift.
The first phase was the pulling of the ship upright. The second phase involved lowering the ship by ballasting the sponsons, or caissons, attached to the ship’s port side, gently lowering her onto underwater platforms.
The parbuckling was held up for one hour as crews performed maintenance on the strand jacks, adjusting tension to the lines. It was at this point that officials said the operation would take longer than expected, continueing through the night and into the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
As dusk fell, the ship kept moving upright, slowly.
After 25 degrees of rotation, the parbuckling entered the second phase. It was now time for gravity to take over. Crews carefully adjusted the water levels in the steel sponsons to gently lower the ship to an upright position. The movement of the ship would pick up at this point.
At about 4 a.m. CEST Tuesday, officials announced the successful completion of the parbuckling after 19 hours of work.
The first photos of the ship’s submerged side were shocking. The amount of damage was almost unexpected, at least to the public. Then again, the ship has spent the last 20 months being crushed under its own weight.
Nick Sloane, who had been calling the shots from an offshore command post, returned to Giglio to a heros welcome, and mobbed by press. Congratulations, Nick! Someone get that guy a beer!!
Once the sun came up, the amount of damage to the ship’s submerged side really came to light.
A side view of the ship showed where it was resting on two rock outcrops. Now you can see why getting the ship off the rocks was so crucial.
With the parbuckling completed, crews will now install similar sponsons to the ships previously submerged starboard side. Within a month the Costa Concordia is expected to be floating once again.
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Come spring, the Costa Concordia will be towed to a port in Italy where it will be scrapped. The plan now calls for the Costa Concordia to be loaded onboard Dockwise’s new Type-O semi-submersible heavy lift vessel, Dockwise Vanguard, and transport her to a so far undecided location where it will scrapped.