Sept. 6 - A salvage team tasked with removing the wreck of the Costa Concordia from its resting place along the coast of Giglio, Italy, are preparing to rotate the ship into an upright position after more than a year of preparation. As Jim Drury reports, the team will be using a technique known as parbuckling, never attempted on a vessel of this size before.
The Costa Concordia has been grounded for 20 months. The 100,000 ton cruise ship slammed into rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012, killing 32 people and forcing the evacuation of 4,000 passengers. Now the liner's finally set to be lifted upright in an unprecedented operation led by US firm Titan Salvage and Italy's Micoperi. Titan's senior salvage master Nicholas Sloane says they're using a technique called 'parbuckling'. SOUNDBITE (English) SENIOR SALVAGE MASTER AT TITAN SALVAGE, NICHOLAS SLOANE, SAYING: "Parbuckling means rotating it upright. So on the in-shore side you'll see a whole lot of red towers and they hold underneath her belly. And on the outboard side on top of the big boxes called sponsons you also see those red hydraulic pulling machines and they'll pull from the outside. So they'll pull from underneath and on top, and that rotates the ship upright." The Concordia's position on the side of a mountain, on the seabed, is difficult terrain. Along with hydraulic machines, a blister tank has been fitted around the ship's bow to support the ship like a neck brace when it rolls to a vertical position. The 300 million dollar salvage operation has been underway for more than a year, involving hundreds of workers. The biggest problem they've had is from the ground below the ship. SOUNDBITE (English) SENIOR SALVAGE MASTER AT TITAN SALVAGE, NICHOLAS SLOANE, SAYING: "Between the two reefs she is lying on there is a whole valley and we had to fill that up with grout. So there is 18,000 tonnes of cement that has been pumped down by divers into grout bags to make a sort of mattress for her. And then basically that spreads the load throughout of her keel. Then when we start the pulling forces and that spreads the load and that enables her to withstand the forces as she comes upright." Six separate platforms built beneath the ship are designed to support its weight as it rolls into an upright position. Underwater cameras will monitor the pulling forces needed to prevent the 290-metre-long ship from twisting, which Sloane says, could be disastrous. The salvage team expects to receive a final go-ahead from authorities later this month. A day of tests will precede the parbuckling operation, which will take up to ten hours. But pulling the Costa Concordia upright is just the first phase of its salvage. Assuming it's successful, engineers will then have to find a way to get the ship out of the water.