JULY 23, 2014 — Like a corpse in an open casket, the wreck of the cruise ship Costa Concordia is being towed, buoyed up by sponsons, towards Genoa for recycling at a funeral two knots speed. But as the last mooring cables were released and the wreck finally got under tow, the mood among salvors was festive, with tugboats spraying water into the air and workers popping bottles of prosecco.
The cruise ship's final voyage began two years after it grounded with the loss of 32 lives.
Though the salvage can't truly be deemed over until the wreck finally reaches the recycling yard, the salvors certainly had much to celebrate. The Titan-Micoperi team has succeeded in accomplishing the largest and most challenging wreck raising and recovery effort ever.
Bean counters at Carnival Corporation's Costa Crociere subsidiary are likely to be less happy. They estimate that the operation to raise and remove the wreck from the Island of Giglio and tow it for scrapping will cost EUR 1.5 billion — more than three times the vessel's EUR 450 million building cost.
Titan Salvage says that the slow and precise tow of the wreck is being made by a convoy comprised of at least 10 other vessels. There are two tugs, with a combined 24,000 horsepower and 275 tons of bollard pull, at the ship's bow towing the hull. Another two auxiliary tugs are positioned aft. The other vessels in the convoy, including a pontoon with a 200-tonne crane, are carrying personnel and equipment. A team of marine biologists is present during the tow and the convoy is being preceded by a specialized marine mammals-watching vessel. The convoy is anticipated to arrive in Genoa on Saturday, July 26, about mid-day pending favorable weather and vessel traffic in the area.
To ensure the continued integrity of the project, Titan Salvage's Nick Sloane, senior salvage master, and Rich Habib, salvage director, are onboard the Costa Concordia to provide around-the-clock, hands-on monitoring of the vessel's list, ballasting, speed and more.
The sailing route will take the vessels south between the island of Giglio and Giannutri before heading west-southwest to a point south of the island of Montecristo. The convoy will then head west-northwest to a position south of the island called Scoglio d'Africa before crossing the Ligurian Sea to the Port of Genoa Voltri.
"This is the latest achievement in a very long series of detailed wreck removal phases," explained Titan's Chris Peterson, vice president. "We have patiently and eagerly planned for this move and only upon confirming that is was safe to do so, got underway."
Once the tow arrives in Genoa, the Titan Micoperi salvage team will assist with the transfer of the vessel to the Genoa consortium that will perform the dismantling.