Costa Concordia Refloat Process Begins

Costa Concordia refloat process
Cruise liner Costa Concordia is seen during a refloat operation at Giglio harbor at Giglio Island July 14, 2014. The wreck of the luxury liner Costa Concordia was refloated on Monday ready to be towed away for scrap, two and a half years after it capsized off the Italian coast, killing 32 people. Reuters

More than 2½ years since it ran aground off the coast of Italy, killing 32 passengers and a salvage crew member and leaving scores injured, the Costa Concordia has begun its refloating as the doomed cruise ship heads closer to a salvage yard.

The Costa Concordia is now floating off the waters of Italy’s Giglio Island, where the ship capsized and sank in January 2012. About 30 large metal boxes were filled with compressed air to get the ship to float -- a process that began nearly 10 months ago.

"The ship is floating now with its sponsons, and it is held in position by the tugs — maybe you have seen them — there are two tugs that are pulling it east seaward," Franco Porcellacchia, project head of the refloating process, told reporters, according to the CBC. Sponsons are devices attached to the side of a vessel to stabilize it.

Michael Thamm, chief executive of Costa Cruises, the operator of the Concordia, said the refloating is off to a “great start.”

It will take five days to get the Concordia to Genoa, 150 miles from its current location, USA Today reported. That’s where the cruise ship will be scrapped.

"We are not at the end, but we are at a critical moment," said Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli, according to CNN.

The plan on Monday was to move the ship 30 meters, when it will then be anchored and left for the day. Then the riskiest part of the operation begins, when the Concordia will be moved off Giglio Island.

On Tuesday, the ship’s sponsons are expected to be lowered and divers will attach chains to the boat to reinforce the bottom of the Concordia, which is in danger of falling out.  When the ship is secure, it will be towed toward Genoa.

Costa Crociere is expected to spend 1.5 billion euros, or a little more than $2 billion, to remove the Concordia from Giglio and to repair damage the ship caused to the island when it ran aground, according to the Telegraph.

A consortium consisting of Mariotti and San Giorgio, two companies based in Genoa, and Milan-based energy company Saipem, will demolish and scrap the ship when it gets to Genoa.

The refloating process began as the embattled ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, faces manslaughter charges for allegedly causing the wreck and abandoning passengers.

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