Costa Concordia upright again

Costa Concordia

Costa Concordia

Giglio Island: Salvage operators in Italy have lifted the Costa Concordia cruise ship upright from its watery grave off the island of Giglio in the biggest ever project of its kind.

The ship's horn sounded for the first time since the January 13, 2012 tragedy, its sound mixing with applause and cheers in the port in a dramatic climax to the massive salvage operation.

The 290-metre, 114,500-tonne vessel - longer than the Titanic and more than twice as heavy - rose from the sea like a ghost ship.

The side of the ship that had been underwater was rusty and brown after 20 months in the sea, contrasting with the white of the exposed side.

"The parbuckling operation has been completed," said Franco Gabrielli, head of the civil protection agency and project overseer, using the technical term for the rotation.

Mr Gabrielli said the newly exposed side of the ship would require "major repairs" and removal of the ship for scrapping is planned only for the northern spring of next year at the earliest.

Franco Porcellacchia, an engineer for the 500-person Italian-US salvage team on Giglio, said: "It could not have gone better than this."

The salvage is the biggest for a passenger ship ever undertaken and the position of the ship posed unique challenges to salvagers.

They have also had to take special care against spillages since Giglio is in the heart of one of Europe's biggest marine sanctuaries.

The ship was dragged up with 36 giant cables across the hull and tanks the size of 11-storey buildings welded on the side of the ship which were filled with water to act as ballast.

The project has so far cost €600 million ($865 million) and insurers, who are picking up the bill, estimate it could run to $1.2 billion once it is completed.

It struck rocks just off Giglio after veering sharply towards the island in a sail-by allegedly ordered by its captain, Francesco Schettino.

Dubbed "Captain Coward" and "Italy's most hated man" for apparently abandoning the ship while passengers were still on board, Captain Schettino is currently on trial.

Four crew members and the head of ship owner Costa Crociere's crisis unit have already received short prison sentences for their roles in the crash.

The ship had 4229 people from 70 countries on board.


This story Costa Concordia upright again first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.