Engineers in Italy have succeeded in setting the cruise ship Costa Concordia upright, 20 months after it ran aground off the island of Giglio. They said that the unprecedented salvage effort ”reached degree zero (vertical), which was our target”.
In the operation that took all of Monday and most of the night, they used cables and metal boxes filled with water to roll the ship onto a platform.
The Costa Concordia capsized in January 2012, killing 32 people. The bodies of two of the victims of the disaster, by the island of Giglio, have never been found. There are hopes that they may be located during the operation.
The ship was declared completely upright shortly after 04:00 local time (02:00) on Tuesday. Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy's Civil Protection Authority, said the vessel was now sitting on a platform built on the sea bed.
A perfect operation, I must say, said Franco Porcellacchia, a project manager for the Concordia's owner, Costa Crociere SpA. He added that no environmental spill was detected so far.
Booms and nets were put in place before the operation started - to combat any pollution threat in what is a marine national park.
The 114,000-gross tonnage ship -twice as heavy as the Titanic- was on Monday raised from rocks on which it had been lying and rolls up onto her keel.
More than 50 enormous chains and winches were used to break the ship away from the reef - the process known as par-buckling. During the marathon operation, the ship would be seen slowly emerging from the water, and the clearly visible watermark on the part that had been submerged. The engineers had originally planned to complete the operation by Monday evening, but it had to be delayed by three hours because of a storm.
This procedure was carried out very slowly to prevent further damage to the hull, which spent months partially submerged in 15m of water and fully exposed to the elements.
Officials now plan to fully inspect the vessel and begin to prepare the next stage - the effort to repair and refloat it and eventually tow it away to be destroyed. Engineers have never tried to lift such a huge ship - over 290m - before.
Five people have been convicted of manslaughter over the disaster, and the captain, Francesco Schettino, is currently on trial accused of manslaughter and abandoning ship.
Giglio mayor Sergio Ortelli earlier said that the removal of the Costa Concordia would bring an end to a huge problem that we have in our port and that we want to solve as soon as we can. Islanders can't wait to see the back of it.
On Sunday, prayers for the operation were said during Sunday Mass on the island. The small island's economy depends hugely on tourism and the presence of the wreck has discouraged visitors.
The salvage project has so far cost more than 600m Euros and is expected to cost much more before the operation is complete.