Shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship pulled upright off Italian coast

Engineers say shipwrecked cruise liner is upright after 19-hour operation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 11:09am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 12:26pm

The crippled Costa Concordia cruise ship was pulled completely upright early yesterday during a delicate 19-hour operation to wrench it from its side where it capsized last year off Tuscany.

Officials declaredit a "perfect" end to a daring and unprecedented engineering feat.

Shortly after 4am, a foghorn wailed on Giglio Island and the head of Italy's civil protection agency, Franco Gabrielli, announced that the ship had reached vertical and that the operation to rotate it - known as parbuckling - was complete.

The Costa Concordia operation - in timelapse

"We completed the parbuckling operation a few minutes ago the way we thought it would happen and the way we hoped it would happen," said Franco Porcellacchia, project manager for the Concordia's owner, Costa Crociere.

"A perfect operation, I must say," with no environmental spill detected so far, he said.

Applause rang out among firefighters in the tent where the project engineers made the announcement.

An hour later, Nick Sloane, the South African chief salvage master, received a hero's welcome as he came ashore from the barge that had served as the floating command control room for the operation.

"Brilliant! Perfetto," Sloane said, using some of the Italian he has learned over the past year on Giglio preparing for yesterday's operation. "It was a struggle, a bit of a roller coaster. But for the whole team it was fantastic."

The Concordia hit a reef on January 13, 2012, after the captain brought it too close to shore. The cruise ship drifted, listed and capsized just off the island's port, killing 32 people.

The operation to right it had been expected to take no more than 12 hours, but dragged on after some initial delays with the vast system of steel cables, pulleys and counterweights.

Final stages of the rotation went remarkably fast as gravity began to kick in and pull the ship towards its normal vertical position. The ship was rotated 65 degrees in the entire process.

Sloane said an inspection of the starboard side, covered in slime from its 20 months underwater while the ship was stuck on seabed rocks, indicated serious damage that must be fixed in the coming weeks and months.

The Concordia is expected to be floated away from Giglio in the spring and turned into scrap.