Righting the Costa Concordia: There is no Plan B

Previous salvage operations have failed to find the bodies of an Italian woman and an Indian waiter. Photo: DPA

For a year and a half she has lain on her side on rocks off the coast of the tiny Tuscan island of Julio.

Now the final efforts have begun to right the Costa Concordia.

Never before in seafaring history has an attempt been made to raise such a colossal vessel.

It’s risky, complex and extremely expensive: the latest estimate puts the cost at £500 million.

Adding to the pressure is the knowledge there is only one chance to do this – and the salvage team say there is no Plan B. The fear is the pressure on the hull will cause the Costa to break up, but those who have spent the past 21 months working on the plan to salvage her say they believe they can make the operation work.

It’s a process known as parbuckling. The vessel is caught on two spurs of rock but over 12 hours, using jacks and steel pullies - some as thick as lamp-posts - they will try to raise the Costa by 65 degrees.

The Costa Concordia is caught on two spurs of rock. Credit: Guardia de Finanza

Hollow metal boxes which have been welded to the side of the ship will be filled with water to help bring her upright.

More boxes will then be attached to the other side. A false sea bed has been created for her to rest on.

The Costa Concordia last sailed in January 2012 – her voyage ended on rocks – and the 4000 passengers were left scrambling for lifeboats or swimming to safety.

Some 30 of the 32 dead were recovered. The captain is charged with their manslaughter, causing a ship wreck and abandoning his vessel.

Costa Concordia captain Franscesco Schettino is due to stand trial for manslaughter. Credit: DPA

However many of the things that were on the ship then are still there now. The fuel may have been removed but the furniture, detergents, bedding, cosmetics, food, baggage and belongings are all below the water.

There is a risk they will pour out as the ship moves and part of the expense of this operation is directed at protecting the environment around the island of Giglio. For the 500 workers who have worked round the clock shifts on the salvage operation there is one very big priority – to recover the two missing bodies.

An Italian woman and Indian waiter have never been found and once the vessel is safely secure the work to find them will begin.

Once they are recovered the next stage of this incredibly challenging operation will begin.

In time this once proud vessel will be floated away from Giglio to be cut up and scrapped.

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