Raising Shipwreck Costa Concordia: What Could Go Wrong? [PHOTO, VIDEO]
Engineers have commenced raising shipwreck Costa Concordia on Monday, September 16, just over 20 months after Captain Francesco Schettino guided the gigantic oceanliner too close to the Italian island of Giglio, causing it to collide into shallow rocks and capsize on January 13, 2012. Efforts of raising the vessel have required 18 months and over 500 workers from 26 nations representing several salvage teams, including U.S.-based crew Titan Salvage.The operation to lift, rotate, and upright the Costa Concordia is regarded as one of the most ambitious and dangerous marine engineering endeavors ever attempted.
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Raising shipwreck Costa Concordia is a race against time as the 114,000 ton cruise ship buckles under its own weight and molds itself onto the reef. What's more, if the recovery fails, salvage crew will not be able to repeat the high-risk operation again. "A ship is not designed to be on its side like that," said Nick Sloane, an engineer of Titan Salvage.
"The sheer mass of the weight of the ship has molded her onto the reef and she has actually subsided about three meters around that reef since she first arrived here. So the sooner we get her upright the better. She's got to come up now.
"There is no way to go back. Basically the grout mattresses that we put underneath -- everything will be taking a lot of strain during that operation and you cannot do it again. So it's a one-time, one-chance opportunity. And when we start we have to be a 100 percent ready."
First, engineers of Titan Salvage slowly shifted the Costa Concordia to clear the rocky closeline. However, raising shipwreck Costa Concordia was interrupted yesterday when heavy rain and a sudden storm, forcing the workers to halt final preparations. After a three hour delay, the team will work around the clock until the vessel is salvaged.
Salvage crews apply the method of parbuckling to right the ship. First, caissons, industrial weights, were installed to the side of the vessel. Next, tether cables were set in place to allow pulleys to upright the ship. Six enormous steel platforms were fitted to the granite seabed in order to give the boat a platform to land. The hull of the Costa Concordia must also be reinforced so that it will not break apart against the anchored platform.
In order to upright the ship, hydraulic jacks pulled on the cables that connect to the caissons. Engineers expect tension in the chains to stabilize the ship. However, in the event of an emergency, a giant crane will help to lift the ship as well. Microphones and video cameras facing the rusting hull will alert engineers should the steel begin to shred. Divers can reach to the origin of failure and weld the damage. While little progress was visible in the early hours, workers eventually saw the rust line, indicating that the ship is indeed rotating.
By the late afternoon, the Costa Concordia is rotated a total of eight inches, effectively reaching the "zero hour" point -- the moment gravity takes over as engineers hold their breath to see wehther cruise ship will continue to right itself.
"Now, at this point the control team will have only air to use to control water levels inside the hollow boxes, which will ultimately provide the buoyancy to counteract gravity. That will be the real test of the project. 'We have faith that our plan is going to work," said Nick Sloane. "We have tested and allowed for every possibility and challenge."
While it is exciting to see the thorough preparation by Sloane and his crew has paid off, it is worth discussing what could have gone wrong during the operation. The project of raising shipwreck Costa Concordia is conducted precariously above a steep sloping seafloor that may cause the ship to sink further down the ridge. If the steel platforms meant to support the ship fail under the vessel's weight, the ship could slide down. Secondly, the ridge is an area of pristine corals and sharp jagged granite, which threatens to tear the heavily damaged steel hull should it slide and grind against the seabed. Finally, if the parbuckling pulled the ship too much, it may shift to the other side and tumble down the slope, breaking into pieces. The Costa Concordia's guts will spill all over the coastal waters and contaminate the fragile marine ecosystem for decades.
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