Over a year ago, the Costa Concordia struck land about 12 miles off of Italy, near an island called Giglio. The ship rolled and capsized with 4,229 passengers on board and became a huge story around the world. It’s been 19 months since the crash, but the ship is still in the water. Nearly 500 salvage workers have been reinforcing the hull little by little, dealing with the oil inside and trying to figure out a way to remove the boat.
Even with the fuel out of the way, the Concordia still represented serious environmental issues. Costa had to find a salvage company to remove it as quickly as possible. The project, worth an estimated $400 million, is the largest-ever attempted maritime salvage. Ships that big are usually blown up or sunk. But Italy’s environmental ministry backed the people of Giglio to pressure Costa to find a company that would refloat the ship rather than destroy it or break it up and haul away on barges. Given its precarious location and the time it would take to dismantle—not to mention the pollution, noise and risks to the environment—the only option was to remove the ship in one piece. That would be a daunting task. The Concordia is 955 feet long and 126 feet wide at the beam. It weights just over 114,000 tonnes. More than 65 percent of it is submerged under water, balancing above a seabed that is made up of coral reefs and sand bars.
The team that’s working on the ship hopes to tip it back upright some time next month. This involves reinforcing large sections of the ship, and building platforms of steel to create a resting place for the ship to rest before it is pulled out. If the salvage effort doesn’t work, the whole ship will break apart and sink into a delicate marine ecosystem. The whole thing is so much more complicated than they expected that it has taken them a full year longer to remove the ship than they had once planned .
Locals of Giglio can’t wait for the ship to leave. The island’s population is something like 900. When the ship sank, its 4,229 passengers and crew suddenly swarmed the island. The people have left by now, but the giant ship still looms out in the distance.
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