In the early part of 2012, the Costa Concordia cruise ship hit a boulder while moving too close to the shores of Giglio Island in Italy. The semi-submerged ship ran aground in a nationally-protected marine park and coral reef. Salvage dive crews were immediately put in place to begin the process of extracting over half a million gallons of fuel from the shipwrecked cruise liner. Meanwhile, American wreck removal company Titan Salvage, and an Italian engineering firm Micoperi, teamed up to form a plan to remove the semi-submerged ship in one piece in order to minimize environmental damage to the marine park.
Prior to rolling the 60,000 ton ship onto an underwater platform using a pulley system, the salvage crew is attaching steel boxes with air pumps to create buoyancy on the exposed side of the ship. Once the ship is on the underwater platform, steel boxes will also be welded to the other side of the ship, acting like water wings so that the ship will float and can be towed away.
Much of the underwater work is being done by the 111 specially-trained salvage divers from 8 different countries, speaking different languages. The commercial divers are geared up with communication equipment, a camera, a light, air, backup air, a support team of at least 5 people on deck and are under the constant watch of a dive supervisor.
Although each diver has a 45 minute maximum in the water, divers rotate in and out and are working around the clock, along with the rest of the crew on this project 24 hours a day – 7 days a week.
The crew is also working against Mother Nature. Bad weather and winter storms weaken the structure and threaten to ruin the entire operation. Right now, the time frame is to rotate the ship next summer.
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More about the Salvage Operation
See more images: How the Costa Concordia will be raised
Costa Concordia: Salvaging a shipwreck
Costa Concordia: An Ecological Time Bomb
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