Refloating the Costa Concordia
June 2, 2012 12:48 PM   Subscribe

The Costa Concordia ran onto rocks and capsized last year. It's been sitting there ever since. A consortium of Titan Salvage and Mericoperi have just gotten approval for a plan to refloat it and take it to an Italian port to be scrapped. The project is just beginning and it's expected to be finished in about a year.

According to Titan Salvage:
There are four stages of operation in the salvage plan, as follows:
•First, once the ship has been stabilized, an underwater platform will be built and watertight boxes, or caissons, fixed to the side of the ship that is above water.
•Two cranes fixed to the platform will pull the ship upright, helped by the weight of the caissons, which will be filled with water.
•When the ship is upright, caissons will be fixed to the other side of the hull to stabilize it.
•Finally, the caissons on both sides will be emptied, after the water inside has been purified to protect the marine environment, and filled with air.

Once floating, the wreck will be towed to an Italian port. Once the removal is complete, the salvage team will clean the waters and the restore the marine flora.
posted by Chocolate Pickle (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I hate to think how much this is all going to cost. But it's amazing that it's possible to do something like this.

In times past they'd have just left it there. The Peter Iredale went ashore on the Oregon coast in 1906, and it's still there (what's left of it after a century of rusting).
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:57 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

When it's daylight in the area, this webcam has been particularly interesting.

I'll definitely be tuned in to see the progress of the operation.
posted by Bindyree at 1:03 PM on June 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

In times past they'd have just left it there.

One of the problems is that the Costa Concordia isn't stable -- it's sliding down the shelf into the channel. They can't break her up where she lays because of that, and they don't want it anywhere near the channel, so they have to be pretty audacious.

The hard part is righting the ship without it sliding away. If they can get her upright on that platform, then the rest of the salvage process is pretty simple.
posted by eriko at 1:04 PM on June 2, 2012

The project is just beginning and it's expected to be finished in about a year.

Pfft. Get the thing floating, tow it through the Suez and haul it over to Alang. Those boys'll have it scrapped in a couple of months, tops. None of this caissons-filled-with-purified-water-to-protect-the-environment silliness.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:18 PM on June 2, 2012

If you're not up to speed on the Costa Concordia, check out this [previously] -- the Vanity Fair article is pretty great.
posted by Honorable John at 1:32 PM on June 2, 2012

For some reason, I'm a huge fan of pictures of abandoned ships, so I'm a little disappointed to learn they're going to salvage it. Obviously, in the long run this is probably a better plan that letting it rust to match my aesthetic sensibilities.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:37 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Marine salvage is absolutely amazing and the people who do it are a fascinating bunch. I think they can do anything if given enough time and welding equipment.

I'm surprised the company is scrapping it and not trying to rebuild it or sell it though. It must be massively damaged.
posted by fshgrl at 2:01 PM on June 2, 2012

The Costa Concordia ran onto rocks and capsized last year.

Dude, are we already in 2013 and nobody told me?!

The Concordia accident happened approx. 6 months ago, the night of January 13th, 2012.
posted by romakimmy at 2:03 PM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I expect that they couldn't float it and put it back into service again due to the bad press around the wreck.
posted by arcticseal at 2:05 PM on June 2, 2012

Thorzdad I'm pretty sure the Consta Concordia won't fit through the Suez Canal. Most cruise ships are built on a scale that forgoes the possibility of using canals like the Panama and Suez so they can carry 3,000 passengers.
posted by localroger at 2:25 PM on June 2, 2012

The Suez Canal has considerably looser limitations than the Panama Canal. The maximum allowed beam is 50m (Costa Concordia is 35.5m) and the maximum draft is 20.1m (vs only 8.2m for the CC).

The only possible limitation is overall height under the Suez Canal bridge. This brochure says the "height at funnel top" is 200 feet (~ 61m), which puts it close to the 68m limit of the bridge, especially if there are antennas above that height. Obviously if the ship is set for scrap, the height issue could be dealt with with via cutting torch.
posted by grahamparks at 2:49 PM on June 2, 2012

Interesting grahamparks. So many ships are built to Panama Canal specs that I didn't realize the Suez was so much looser.
posted by localroger at 4:00 PM on June 2, 2012

Interesting grahamparks. So many ships are built to Panama Canal specs that I didn't realize the Suez was so much looser.

The Suez Canal has no locks which makes it much easier to enlarge.
posted by atrazine at 5:19 PM on June 2, 2012

I'm not sure the Costa Concordia plus the caissons which will be holding it up would fit even the Suez Canal. Seems like the whole thing would be too wide, and I bet it would draw too much water too.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:09 PM on June 2, 2012

Eriko, the third link in the post has further details. They're going to drive "massive posts" into the sea bed on the shallow side of the wreck, and then connect chains from there to hold the ship in place.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:15 PM on June 2, 2012

On a sidebar, the captain of the Costa Concordia has volunteered to direct the salvage operation remotely via Skype, as he believes this will offer the most protection to the salvage crew.
posted by jcworth at 7:35 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure why everyone's talking Suez, interesting as it may be; the point is that an Italian scrapper is doing the salvage.

Among other things, Suez may be uncomfortable with the idea of a salvaged ship of any stripe passing through. When the ex-Soviet carrier Varyag -- merely an incomplete, but intact, hull -- was sold to China, Turkey objected to its passage through the Bosporus and Dardanelles, although eventually agreed after long negotiations. Egypt, however, did not relent and Varyag went around the Cape of Good Hope. The USS Cole, after salvage, also went around the cape. It's slower, but salvage isn't generally time-critical cargo. Oil rigs, as well, often take extremely long and circuitous routes.

I also discount the "bad PR" theory -- wrecks have routinely been refitted (and usually, but not always, renamed) historically, such as the Stockholm.

Anyway, this salvage operation sounds fascinating, and I just hope that Extreme Engineering gets a crew out there.
posted by dhartung at 11:31 PM on June 2, 2012

I recently read about the composite clipper Ambassador, the metal skeleton of which makes a striking photo.
posted by vanar sena at 2:30 AM on June 3, 2012

Having recently returned from a cruise, seeing the Costa Concordia like that makes me very sad. Cruise ships are truly amazing.
posted by Splunge at 4:20 AM on June 3, 2012

The U.S. Navy Ship Salvage Manual (1989) has some handy tips for all wannabe marine salvors [FTP PDF links]:


As often as not, ships will capsize as they sink and come to rest at a severe angle. Ships sunk in this condition present a more complex problem than those sunk upright. An entirely new dimension is added to the salvage operation because the vessel is usually righted before refloating. Ships are righted by developing a moment of force to overcome the moment of weight that holds the ship in her capsized position. There are basically only four methods of handling a capsized ship:

• Refloating the ship on its side and moving it to another location
• Rotating the ship until it is completely upside down and refloating the upside-down ship
• Righting the ship in place, then refloating it. (Simple in principle, the righting of capsized ships is a complex engineering task requiring careful and detailed analysis.)
• Wrecking in place or otherwise disposing of it in situ.

This chapter discusses the first three alternatives.
Reuters has a nice infographic illustrating the planned refloat of the Costa Concordia. Similar — and quite impressivesalvage techniques were used to right the capsized USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor in 1943.
posted by cenoxo at 9:15 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

CP: I hate to think how much this is all going to cost.

No pun intended, I'm sure — Big Costa: $300m to refloat capsized liner.
posted by cenoxo at 9:29 AM on June 3, 2012

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