Costa Concordia tow away set for June

JANUARY 13, 2014 — As ceremonies marked the two year anniversary of the Costa Concordia tragedy which cost 32 lives, details emerged on progress with plans to tow the wreck away and scrap it.

It now appears that the ship will be towed out in June. However, its final destination will not be known until by the end of February-early March 2014 when the responses to an invitation to tender that was sent out last month have been evaluated.

Removing the wreck of the giant cruise ship from the environmentally sensitive waters of Italy's Isola del Giglio is widely considered the most daunting salvage ever attempted on a ship of its size.

The ship's owner, Carnival Corporation subsidiary Costa Crociere, awarded the contract to remove the ship in one piece to Titan-Micoperi Srl, a joint venture between Crowley Maritime's Titan Salvage and Italy's Micoperi. Titan-Micoperi's offer was chosen based on stringent criteria, 90% of which referred to environmental protection, safety and the socio-economic fabric of the island community and the successful bid was actually the most expensive of the six submitted.

The parbuckling, or righting, of the ship was successfully carried out September last year.

Since being raised, the wreck has been resting on the false sea bed created beneath it as part  of the parbuckling procedure at a depth of about 30 meters.

To guarantee additional stability for the wreck, winterization measures saw 28 tubular steel braces positioned to connecting the sponsons on the wreck to the underwater platforms on the offshore side, the positioning of additional grout bags on the inshore side and the installation of an additional holdback system for the bow.

Following the parbuckling, the wreck was surveyed to assess its overall condition, particularly the starboard side, which was previously submerged and inaccessible. Engineers then determined the structural repairs required ahead of the installation of the 15 sponsons that must still be placed on the starboard (inshore) side.

The installation of the sponsons is planned to start in April 2014. They have already been built and are being prepared for installation in the Titan Micoperi Terminal in Livorno. Another four sponsons are still to be installed on the port side, making a total of 15 on this side as well.

Initially, the 30 sponsons on either side of the vessel will be filled with water. A pneumatic system will be used to empty the water gradually, thus providing sufficient buoyancy for flotation.

It is a delicate operation and engineers estimate that it might take several days. On completion of this process, a portion of the hull of about 18.5 meters will remain submerged.

After refloating, the wreck will be ready for transportation to its final port of destination for dismantling and recycling.

The wreck is regarded as waste and therefore, according to Italian law, the Tuscan Regional Administration is in charge of authorizing its transportation.

Various possibilities are being considered for transportation of the wreck:

a) Currently, traditional towing is considered the first option.
b) With a US$ 30 million contract, Costa Crociere has also optioned the world's largest semi-submersible ship, the Dockwise Vanguard, as an additional alternative. The Dockwise Vanguard offers two possible offloading methods for the Concordia: "float off", which means that the wreck would be offloaded into the sea afloat, or "skid off", whereby the Concordia would be transferred from the Dockwise Vanguard directly onto a pier or an adjacent quayside area. A decision on the offloading method will be made in due time, should this mode of transportation be required.

When delivered afloat, the wreck (including the attached sponsons) is expected to have the following overall dimensions:

Length Overall (LOA): 289.6 meters
Extreme Breadth including sponsons: approximately 62.5 meters
Maximum Draft: 18.5 meters Weight Approximately 75,000 tons

According to Italian media reports, 12 ports and companies in six different countries are bidding for the contract to dismantle the vessel for scrap. The companies angling for the contract are believed to come from Italy, England, France, Norway, Turkey and the Netherlands.

Italy's environment minister Andrea Orlando has reportedly said that the government would prefer "a domestic destination" for the ship's dismantling.

Genoa seems the Italian port best placed to win the contract, while Costa Croceria is reported to favors the Turkish port of Aliağa. In late 2012 the company sent its Costa Allegra cruise ship to Aliağa for scrapping, after suffering a fire off the coast of the Seychelles  that year.

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