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Topic: Gen'l Interest: Capsized Costa Concordia Set to Leave Watery Grave
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 13,803
Registered: 12/3/04
Gen'l Interest: Capsized Costa Concordia Set to Leave Watery Grave
Posted: Jul 4, 2014 3:39 PM
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From Scientific American, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. See
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/capsized-costa-concordia-is-finally-set-to-leave-its-watery-grave/?&WT.mc_id=SA_WR_20140703
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Capsized Costa Concordia Is Finally Set to Leave Its Watery Grave

Final preparations are under way to refloat and remove the Costa
Concordia from the pristine waters off Giglio in what has been the
largest and most expensive maritime salvage operation ever attempted.

By Barbie Latza Nadeau

Editor's Note: For Scientific American's complete coverage of the
Costa Concordia disaster see links at the end of this story.

After more than two and a half years and $1 billion, the capsized
cruise ship Costa Concordia is about to set sail again, although it
won't be under its own power. The move could not come too soon,
because the risk that it will damage the environment is much higher
now than when the ship originally crashed near the Tuscan island of
Giglio in January 2012.

If all goes well, the crippled vessel, which was rotated to an
upright position (parbuckled) in September, will be lifted to the
surface in an even riskier operation sometime around the middle of
July-likely the 14th because the salvors working on the operation are
superstitious enough to avoid having the refloat in progress on the
13th.

So far, the biggest problem the uplift team has faced was detachment
of a flotation caisson in April. These caissons are large metal boxes
into which compressed air will be pumped to float the ship. Salvage
crews repaired and remounted the escaped caisson and are now
finishing installation of the remaining ones. The Concordia will have
30 caissons in all to carry out the refloat. Once the ship has been
lifted, two of the caissons will have to be refitted to help keep the
craft ship afloat while it is being towed 240 kilometers to Genoa,
where it will be dismantled.

Lifting the ship more than 12 meters off the giant underwater
platforms that have been supporting it since September will take
three or four days, but raising it the first two meters will be the
most dangerous part of the exercise. That's when the hull could crack
and spill out a toxic stew of chemicals, rotten food and debris
trapped since the shipwreck that has been swilling around inside the
sunken ship for more than two years. If the hull breaks apart, the
ship would likely never be removable from Giglio in one piece and
would have to be dismantled in situ.

Once the ship is floated two meters off the platforms, salvors will
carry out crucial checks to make sure the ship has no hidden fissures
or further structural damage. Then they will move it eastward some 30
meters to begin the full refloat. Franco Porcellacchia, project
manager for Costa Cruises, told Scientific American that the ship
will be then be lifted above the surface deck by deck, with salvage
crews stopping after each new deck emerges to look for
environmentally harmful substances as well as clean the debris so
that it does not leak into the sea. Italy's environmental ministry is
"greatly concerned" that the wrecked ship will spew flotsam and
contaminants all the way to Genoa. But the engineers working on the
project and Costa Cruises (which is owned by American Carnival
Cruises) have assured them that the pollution produced en route to
Genoa will be "temporary and of little significance."

The superficial debris that salvagers will remove before the vessel
sets sail includes mattresses, suitcases and personal effects
belonging to guests as well as fully stocked freezers (that could pop
when the water pressure is eased) and entire restaurants with plates,
utensils, tables and chairs. And even if the hull remains intact,
bunker fuel left in the tanks and engines, along with other harmful
chemicals such as cleaning supplies could also befoul the water if
not removed promptly.

The risks posed by raising the ship are real but leaving the Costa
Concordia in place is not an option because as the ship decays and
saltwater and waves crash against it, the likelihood of pollution
fouling the waters off Giglio rises. Salvors have told Scientific
American that they cannot guarantee the ship would survive another
winter intact. "It's far more dangerous to the environment to leave
it where it is than to tow it away," said Franco Gabrielli, Italy's
Civil Protection chief, when he met with Giglio residents this week
to explain the process. "It must go as soon as possible."
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SIDEBAR PHOTO: Lifting the ship more than 12 meters off the giant
underwater platforms that have been supporting it since September
will take three or four days, but raising it the first two meters
will be the most dangerous part of the exercise. Credit: Barbie
Latza Nadeau
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