Costa Condordia reaches final port

Wrecked cruise liner destined for scrap yard following one of the largest maritime salvage operations attempted.

Last updated: 27 Jul 2014 17:13
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The wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner has limped into its last port, after being towed to the northern Italian city of Genoa to be broken up for scrap, two-and-a-half years after running aground and sinking, killing 32 people.

After a four-day journey from the Tuscan island of Giglio, where it sank in January, 2012, the 114,500-tonne hulk was manoeuvred into place and secured in one of the largest and most complex maritime salvages attempted.

Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, flew to Genoa to hail the completion of the operation which restored some pride to Italy after a disaster that was widely interpreted as a national humiliation as well as a human tragedy.

"This isn't a day for showing off or creating a spectacle, but it's a mark of gratitude from the prime minister for getting something done which everyone said would be impossible," Renzi told reporters on the dock, saluting the work of the salvage engineers from Italy and around the world.

"We have had a terrible page to turn, but Italy isn't a country destined for the scrap heap," he said.

Two-year operation ahead

In contrast to the night when the Concordia ran aground and capsized during a display sometimes performed by cruise ships known as a "salute", the salvage operation has been a technical success.

After hours of preparation, dockworkers fixed the wreck in place in the industrial port of Voltri, just outside Genoa's main harbour.

It will be dismantled in an operation expected to cost $134m and take up to two years.

The overall salvage effort is expected to cost Carnival Corp, owner of the ship's operator, Costa Cruises and its insurers more than $2.14bn.

The Costa Concordia, a huge floating hotel as long as three football pitches laid end to end with 13 passenger decks, was carrying around 4,000 passengers and crew when it went down shortly after the start of a Mediterranean cruise.

Its captain, Francesco Schettino, is on trial for causing the shipwreck, which ended in a chaotic evacuation during which the 32 people died. The body of one crew member lost during the accident has still not been recovered.

Work has proceeded with very few serious hitches since the wreck was brought upright from its position on the rocks last September. The operation involved as many as 200 crew members working on the site at any time.

After spending winter secured in place, the liner was refloated last week and began the voyage of nearly 320km to Genoa.

Supported by huge buoyancy tanks on either side, the wreck has been towed by two tugboats accompanied by a convoy of auxiliary vessels, travelling at an average speed of around two nautical miles an hour. Helped by calm seas, there were no major alarms during the voyage.

Gian Luca Galletti, the Italian environment minister, said concerns in France about possible pollution damage during the transfer, which took the Concordia near Corsica, had proved unfounded.

"There hasn't been any problem at all. They should have a bit more confidence in Italians," he said.


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