SA man heads historical Concordia salvage

2012-10-18 10:57
The Costa Concordia cruise ship lays near the harbour of Giglio Porto. (File, AFP)

The Costa Concordia cruise ship lays near the harbour of Giglio Porto. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Giglio Island - A giant yellow drill shatters into the rocky seabed next to the rusting Costa Concordia wreck as workers, headed by South African Nick Sloane, battle to pull off the biggest salvage operation of its kind in history.

Cranes tower over the luxury liner, which lies covered in seaweed where it capsized on Giglio Island in January. A gaping hole where the swimming pool used to be reveals the ghostly depths of the ship's nine-storey central atrium.

The disaster, which killed 32 people, left salvage teams facing the unprecedented challenge of removing a ship with a gross tonnage of 114 500GT without spilling its rotting contents left by fleeing passengers into the sea.

"It's the biggest ship recovery ever by quite some way," said Sloane, salvage master for US company Titan, which won a bid for the project jointly with Italian offshore rig company Micoperi to right and float the Concordia.

"The plan is based on a lot of assumptions made by our engineering teams. It's a thumbsuck, but an informed thumbsuck," he said with a grin, adding that he has a cigar ready to celebrate the day the ship floats.

One of the biggest risks is that the ship, which is grounded on two large outcrops close to the shore, will slip when righted and plunge into the depths.

Working into the night

The plan is for 26 pillars to be driven into the seabed to support a series of underwater platforms as big as football fields for the ship to sit on.

Large metal tanks that can be filled with water will then be welded onto the sides of the ship to balance the giant wreckage while it is dragged into an upright position using two cranes as well as cables attached to the platforms.

The largest of the tanks are as high as an 11-storey building and weigh 500-plus tons, and getting them lined up precisely on the frame is far from easy.

"There's never been anything like this. It's part salvage, part offshore operation," said Franco Porcellacchia from the ship's parent company Carnival.

Teams working late into the night this week at the operation's nerve centre in a hotel on Giglio co-ordinated the arrival of 66 divers tasked with putting 17 500 tons of cement bags in a 50m gap between the ship and the seabed.

The fear is that the midship section may give way, breaking the ship in half - a risk greatly increased should there be bad weather over the coming winter.

Worst kind of rock


"She's spanned between the reefs so the more support you give her the better she'll survive the winter. If we have a mild winter that will be great, but it's unlikely, and bad weather will mean delays for sure," Sloane said.

The project, which Carnival says will cost at least €400m, is already running several months late due to technical issues.

"The seabed is granite rock, not limestone or sandstone," Sloane said.

"Granite rock is the worst kind to be drilling in, especially at the 35 to 40 degree angles that we're drilling. The drill head also slips on the rock."

The team finally managed to get the first hole drilled this week.

The delay worries some residents on the tiny island, where hotel owners say bookings were down 40% this summer - though port-side restaurants and bars have benefited from the flood of day-trippers coming to see the wreck.

Marine park monitored


"There has been a slump in tourists staying for more than a day, but that's not the ship's fault, it's the economic crisis. The ship brings work and has actually boosted the local economy," said 38-year-old grocer Giacomo.

"But it is going to be here for several years yet, you just watch. We don't have much faith in Titan. They may be the best, but even they don't know how to right the Concordia without it breaking in half," he added.

Local builder Luca said he didn't mind how long it would take: "I'd rather they take their time over it than rush it, break the ship and pollute the shoreline" where even in mid-October locals and tourists swim in the crystal-clear waters.

Life in the marine park is being monitored by Giandomenico Ardizzone, professor in environmental biology at Rome's Sapienza University, whose 15-man team have been painstakingly saving rare giant mussels from under the wreck.

He also has watchers go out in a boat twice a day to see whether there are any whales or dolphins near the Concordia: "If there were, the drilling would stop because it could damage their hearing even over a long distance."

And to limit the intense vibrations and din when the wreck is righted, the professor is drawing up plans for a bubble wall created by pressurised air bubbles released from a pipe on the seabed to form a buffer curtain.

Love and determination

"It's the first time a system this complicated will have been used for salvage," he said. "The plan is not only to reduce noise but also create a barrier to trap pollution if the stagnant water inside the ship should spill."

On one of the operation's barges, workers in overalls take a tea-break and show off a large chunk of the rock which tore the gaping hole in the Concordia when it crashed, which sits on display on deck as a reminder of the fatal blow.

"I've never been involved with anything on this scale. It's certainly a challenge but we're up to it," said Iwan Anderson from the Shetland Islands.

Many of the divers, engineers and shipmates said they have come to see Giglio as a second home and speak proudly about helping restore the coastline.

Winding down after 12-hour shifts on the port-side, the lads wear T-shirts they've had made specially for the job, reading: "Love and Determination".

Read more on:    italy  |  maritime  |  cruise liner disaster
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
8 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Travel

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Today is a good day to network and share your ideas and thoughts with your colleagues and friends. Information overload is...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.