Costa Concordia Salvage Begins: How Will Engineers Right Italy’s Capsized Cruise Ship?

By Philip Ross on September 16, 2013 12:38 PM EDT

costa concordia
People look on at the capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia off of Giglio Island in Italy. Salvage engineers pushed back the start of an operation on Monday to lift the wrecked liner upright after an overnight storm interrupted preparations. (Photo: Reuters)

The Costa Concordia salvage began today. A crew of 500 engineers from 24 countries has started the painstaking task of righting the capsized cruise ship, an effort that was suppose to begin earlier this year but was delayed because of budget constraints and bad weather. The goal is to remove the 951-foot-long, 115,000-ton ship to a nearby shipping facility for demolition.

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This is the first time such an operation has been attempted on a ship this size. According to ABC News, it's also the most expensive maritime salvage effort in history and will cost roughly $800 million to implement.

"It's a one-time opportunity and when we start we have to be 100 percent ready," Nick Sloan, the engineer and salvage master who is leading the effort, told ABC News.

The Costa Concordia capsized in Jan. 2012 after the cruise ship, under the command of Captain Francesco Schettino and carrying 4,200 passengers, struck a reef off Italy's Isola del Giglio. The grounding ripped a 160-foot gash in the side of the vessel, causing water to gush in and capsize the boat.

The crew ordered passengers to abandon ship an hour after the cruise liner hit the reef. Thirty-two people perished; two of the bodies, one passenger and one ship waiter, were never recovered.

In November of 2012, engineers stabilized the cruise ship using anchors embedded into the sea floor. Twelve retaining turrets were erected using computer-controlled jacks mounted atop each tower. USA Today reports that underneath the vessel have been placed removable bags of concrete. An underwater platform will stabilize the ship once it has been righted.

Using a system of pulleys and cables, the Costa Concordia will be hauled upright and balanced with 15 floating sponsors, which are just containers full of water.

Once the ship is upright, engineers will release the water from the sponsors and the ship will begin to rise out of the water and float. The ship will then be towed to a nearby port and the reef will be replanted and cleaned up.

To see a diagram of exactly how engineers will salvage the Costa Concordia, check out USA Today's info graphic here.

Read more from iScience Times:

Costa Concordia Salvage Crew: How Will Team Remove Italy Shipwreck? [VIDEO, REPORT]

Costa Concordia: Potential Oil Spill Could Cause Italy's Worst Environmental Disaster in 21 Years

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