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Costa Concordia Salvage Suspended by Environmental Fears, Lack of Salvage Port

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Salvage operations on the Costa Concordia, wrecked on rocks off the coast of Giglio, Italy nearly 2 1/2 years ago, have halted, at least temporarily.

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Two reasons have been given for the work stoppage:

  1. A port to receive the wreck for final scrapping hasn't been finalized, and:
  2. The fear of spilling environmentally hazardous materials into the water when the ship is moved.

The wreck, originally slated to be removed in the fall of 2013 at the cost of half a billion dollars, now faces a summer of 2014 move date at the earliest. Costa Cruise Lines claims that so far they have spent 1.1 billion dollars in the recovery effort.

It's not that they can't find a port that wants the ship delivered. That's the easily solved problem. It was thought last year that Piombino would be the Italian port doing the salvage. That deal was never finalized. Now at least one other Italian port appears vying for the job, with the new leader perhaps being a port in Turkey.

The primary issue now is that Italian officials are worried about pollution that could leak from the ship. 'The Local', an English-language news site in Italy reports the ship contains "polluting cargo" including cleaning products, rotted food and sewage. All of this waste must be pumped out before the ship is moved, and officials aren't yet satisfied it can be done without environmental damage.

Hazardous material already removed from the ship includes 500,000 gallons of oil, 2,300 tons of heavy fuel and 200 tons of diesel fuel. This material was relatively easy to remove, as it was in 19 holding tanks onboard the vessel and was one of the first things done after the wreck in January of 2012.

Pumping out sewage and the other items will be a different matter as it is not neatly sitting in tanks waiting to be removed, but is scattered in locations throughout the ship.

The Tuscan Bay, where the Concordia sits, is an environmentally protected area called the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. It claims to be Europe's largest marine sanctuary about 140,000 acres of protected sea, and another 45,000 acres of land under it's protection. The wreck is surrounded by reefs, and the sanctuary includes dolphins, whales, porpoises and other marine life.

There is a new wrinkle in the salvage operation. Originally it was announced that the ship would be righted, and massive tanks would be welded to each side and once water was floated from the wreck, these tanks would allow it to float and be towed to port. Now, a massive semi-submersible ship called the Dockwise Vanguard will be placed beneath the wreck to help it float.

The Dockwise Vanguard is built to transport offshore oil and gas facilities, and large ships. It is listed as being capable of lifting and transporting ships up to 110,000 tons. Placing the Concordia on it will be the final phase before the ship is towed to that yet undetermined salvage yard.

An Italian official was quoted last week as saying it was 'very doubtful' that the new, June, 2014 move deadline would be met.

To keep up with the latest news on the Concordia salvage operation and observe daily progress, visit the Concordia Webcams site, which offers an ongoing news feed and links to four cameras focused on the wreck and Giglio.

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