Almost two and a half years after she hit rocks and capszied off the small Italian island of Giglio, the scarred, ghastly remains of the once proud Costa Concordia are finally ready to begin the final voyage to the scrapyard.
By one of those awful coincidences that seem to litter the pages of maritime history, the 114,000 ton Costa Concordia is going to be demolished in Genoa, Italy, where the ship was originally built back in 2006.
Numerous bids had been tendered to dispose of the partially refloated wreck, including one from Middlesbrough in the UK; but the choice by Costa of the port of Genoa was made on grounds of proximity rather than cost. The tow from Giglio to Genoa is estimated to take five days. This is probably about as much exposure to open water as the fragile wreck can realistically sustain. As things stand, the tow is slated to begin on July 20th.
The immense salvage operation was the largest ever conducted on a partially sunken ship. Partially refloated by a method known as ‘parbuckling’, the wallowing hulk currently rests on a man made platform. Over the next few weeks, a series of man made sponsons will be attached to the hull, as a prelude to the tow.
The accident, which led to the deaths of thirty two passengers on board, occurred on January 13th, 2012, just hours after the Costa Concordia had left the port of Civitavecchia at the start of a seven night Mediterranean cruise. The story created world wide headlines at the time; a saga fuelled by the actions of her captain, Francesco Schettino, who abandoned his command while thousands of his passengers were still stranded on board the listing ship.
A court of inquiry subsequently found five officers and crew members of the Costa Concordia guilty of negligence. The trial of Schettino himself is currently ongoing, though at a fairly desultory rate of knots.
Now, with the announcement of the imminent scrapping of the desolate hulk, Costa will no doubt be hoping to assume some forward momentum again. With the recent establishment of the ‘Neocollection’ of cruises being offered on smaller, more intimate ships, and the coming November launch of a new flagship, the even bigger Costa Diadema, the company is slowly gathering way once more.
No doubt the good people of Giglio will be glad to see the back of the grisly, hulking ruin that has blighted their horizon for two and a half years. Having lived through the disaster itself, the rescue, and then the media tsunami that followed, perhaps life there can once again assume a semblance of its former normality.
JUNE 11th UPDATE:
Word is being circulated via the GCaptain website (http://www.gcaptain.com) that the final timetable outlined above for removal of the Costa Concordia wreck may well be delayed.
A final green light for this was expected oh June 16th this year. However, Italy’s Department of Civil Protection, meeting in Rome to discuss the wreck disposal in greater detail, has asked for a nine day extension to look at the plans for salvage and ultimate disposal in greater detail. A decision is now expected on June 25th.
What effect- if any- these deliberations will have on the plans outlined above is as yet uncertain. As ever, stay tuned.
JULY 4TH UPDATE:
Yesterday, the last of thirty sponsons was attached to the still half submerged hull of the Costa Concordia. The Italian government has now given final, formal consent for the demolition of the wreck to be carried out in Genoa.
Final preparations were expected to be completed by the middle of July, but with the last of the sponsons now in place, it is possible that she might reach her final port before the original target date, set for the end of this month.
As always, stay tuned.
JULY 22ND UPDATE:
As of today, the slowly surfacing wreckage has emerged some eleven metres in all, leaving another three metres to go before the long delayed tow to the scrapping berth at Genoa can finally begin.
This will be carried out by what amounts to a funeral cortege of some fourteen vessels; tug boats, oil spill recovery vessels, some multi purpose craft and, apparently, even a sailboat.
Delayed by high winds thus far, this final tow is currently due to start on Wednesday.