Concordia Ready for Parbuckle
Raising the Concordia is as complicated as modern ship rescues can get
Costa Concordia sank off the coast of the tiny Italian island of Giglio last January, 2011. Although it has only been there less than two years it feels like an eternity, to us and especially to the people who happen to see it every day, a constant visual reminder of the worst maritime accident in the modern cruise industry. Another ongoing concern is the precariousness of the ship's location, it is sitting half-submerged on the edge of the same rocky underwater precipice that caused it to tip over and come to a rest on that fateful night.
Right now, the ship is barely supported by a small outcropping of rock, and it has already experienced two small slips of two or three feet at a time, small movements but alarming enough to scare all engineers and other salvage personnel off of the ship for several days when they happened.
It is believed that if one or more small but significant slips occurs the ship could easily lose any remaining natural support and slide down an underwater slope to a much deeper area far beyond the ability of technicians to rescue the vessel. That water is believed to be 600 to 800 feet deep. In a meeting concluded in Rome last week several engineers and planners decided they should try to turn the ship upright as soon as possible. Several supports to hold the ship upright as part of the plan to salvage her are already in place.
Of course, raising the Concordia is not about saving the ship itself, it is needed to restore and preserve the land and seascape and an important habitat for local sea life. The island of Giglio, across a 30-mile strait from the Amalfi Coast on the West side of Italy is near the largest refuge for marine mammals, mostly dolphins and porpoises, in all of Europe.
The recent meetings in Rome were held by the Civil Protection Department, also attended by Emergency Commissioner Franco Gabrielli, and representatives from the Advisory Committee, the Observatory, the Micoperi-Titan Consortium and the cruise line Costa Crociere. The topic of discusssion was how soon the Micoperi-Titan Consortium and Costa Crociere can start the operation of raising the Concordia. With extensive research materials at hand, the decision was made to try the salvage the week of Sept 16, 2013.
Technically, the term "parbuckle" is an old nautical word for a double-roped hoist, quite common in the days of sailing ships, when having two pulleys helped to distribute the work load when hoisting large objects such as barrels or cannons.
In this case, the word is generally in use as a verb to describe the process of turning the ship upright. Concordia now lays on her port side on a submerged reef - with her port side mostly above water and the starboard side still mostly submerged.
The first step in this recovery project was to cover the gaping hle in the hull of the ship. This was done by riveting large sheets of metal to the hull. In the parbuckle recovery procedure, the first part of the process required building several underwater stationary platforms to hold the ship in place once the engineers lift one side the get it upright. The ultimate goal is to allow her to settle in an upright position and get her stabilized. The second step is to re-distribute the weight of the sea water trapped inside the vessel until she finds equilibrium, where she can remain upright and find a stable draft (the amount of ship that remains underwater) so she can be towed. If she rides to high or low in the water and encounters high seas she could tip over or sink.
The decision to parbuckle Concordia now was largely reached because winter is approaching. With its higher and stormier seas it was felt to be too risky to leave a ship out in the exposed elements for another winter season. It was decided it would be better to get her into a safer environment before she becomes unsalvageable.
To get the ship upright a number of strategically placed, very heavy rubber "balloons" will be inflated underneath the down side of the ship. Once Concordia can find equilibrium she should be able to float on her own. In addition to the problem of the possibility the water will shift to the other side too quickly and push the ship over the other direction, another danger is that too much water will be trapped inside the vessel - sticking her on the reef so that she cannot be towed. In either case, systems to pump the seawater are all ready, waiting to be used wherever engineers feel they might be necessary.
Once the ship can be made towable then she will most likely be taken to India and sold for scrap. Unfortunately, even if they are able to "float the Concordia" she will never again sail as a cruise ship. Too much damage has been done already. The company feels it is best to retire the name and to move on.
See a report on the entire topic of parbuckling Concordia .