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Costa Concordia salvage plans reveal largest refloat in history

When the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Giglio Island, Italy on the night of January 13th, questions began about how she would be salvaged. Last month, officials announced that the massive ship would be refloated, towed away in one piece, and dealt with in an Italian port.

Concordia will have huge, steel 'pontoons' attached to her before being righted and towed away.
Getty Images

Now, the Italian-American partnership of Titan-Micoperi have announced an unprecedented plan on how they will right the ship.

The plan will take the rest of 2012, with the latest estimate that the ship will be removed early in 2013.

The salvage will consist of the following steps:

  1. To stabilize the ship where she lays. The ship is lying on a slope, and is slowly sliding down it. Titan-Micoperi will embed massive posts in the seabed on the starboard (shore) side of the wreck, and will then attach the ship to those chains, "locking" it in place.
  2. Build a large, underwater platform on the port (seaward) side, down the underwater slope from where the ship lies.
  3. Weld huge steel boxes to the exposed side of the ship, and fill them with water.
  4. Pull Concordia upright. Pulling machines will then be connected to the subsea platform, and two cranes attached to the platform will accomplish this. The ship will actually slide down to the undersea platform where it will sit.
  5. Once upright, weld matching steel boxes to the starboard side of the hull.
  6. De-ballast boxes on both sides and fill them with air, making them the equivilent of massive pontoons for the ship, allowing it to float while being towed to port. (Water from inside the boxes will be purified and treated before being returned to the sea)
  7. Tow the ship away.
  8. Remove all structures and remaining debris. The sea bed will also be cleaned up and vegetation will be replanted, returning the area as close to pre-accident condition as possible.

Mark Hoddinott, general manager of the International Salvage Union, and a former Titan Salvage employee said, "This strategy has been used on a smaller scale by both the US and Royal Navy, but no one has removed a ship of this size."

Concordia is 950 feet long and weighs 44,612 metric tons (or nearly 100 million pounds), according to Titan-Micoperi.

There was no word on the cost of the salvage, but estimates during the bid process were that it could exceed $300 million.

A statement from Costa said that the 'one piece' tow off would "minimize environmental impact, protect Giglio's economy and tourism industry, and maximize safety."

Those interested in following the progress as salvage begins can watch on the Giglio Island Webcam.

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