Cruise Ship Wreck Removal Underway Amid New Questions Of Cause

It’s been nearly seven months since the cruise ship Costa Concordia grounded off the coast of Italy, leaving 32 dead. After lying on its side since the January 13th grounding, Costa Concordia will next be stood back up, re-floated and towed to an Italian port. But what looks to be a simple operation will involve the coordination of several salvage companies and cost millions.

A big part of the salvage plan to remove the wreck calls for 30 watertight boxes, called cassions, to re-float the ship in one piece. Once the ship has been stabilized, caissons will be fixed to the upper side of the hull and gradually filled with water as part of the operation to right the ship.

Using a system of hydraulic jacks fixed to an undersea platform, the ship will be brought upright, underwater. When the ship is upright, caissons full of water also will be fixed to the other side of the hull. Then the caissons on both sides will be filled with air to re-float the wreck as we see in this simulation.

Salvage operations began with the removal of fuel from the ship to address environmental concerns. Once the wreck is removed, the focus goes back on to the seabed with a cleanup operation devised to conserve the marine environment. The preliminary stage is expected to finish by the end of July, followed by the ship stabilization phase in August.

Looking back, history will remember the Concordia event as more of a near miss than a Titanic-like disaster.

Looking forward, via an Operational Safety Review performed by the cruise industry, improved safety measures have been put in place to prevent an incident like this from happening again.

This week, new information revealed in an Associated Press report raises more questions. The black box stopped recording before the ship was evacuated. Watertight doors, designed to keep the ship afloat, were left open. Unauthorized maps were found in the bridge.

Did these new discoveries have something to do with the wreck? That is unknown at this time so stay tuned as this story continues.

[Flickr photo by EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection]