The stricken Costa Concordia cruise liner could be upright again next week, nearly two years after she capsized on the rocky shore of the Tuscan island of Giglio.
The ship struck a rock and tumbled on its side on Jan. 13, 2012, after captain Francesco Schettino allegedly drove it on an unauthorized route too close to shore, ripping a huge gash in the hull. More than 4,200 people were aboard, and 32 people died.
Weather permitting, the 114,500-ton ship will be raised next week. The $800-million project is considered to be one of the largest, most expensive and most daunting salvage operation in history.
The project began with securing the rusting wreck, which is sitting on two spurs of rock just off land.
In order to prevent any slipping or sinking along the steep seabed, four submarine anchor blocks are fixed to the sea bottom between the center of the wreck and the coast.
Twelve retaining turrets were installed for use during the righting of the wreck. Jacks, individually controlled by computers and mounted on the tops of the turrets, have been attached to 24 chains (two per turret) that pass under the hull and are fixed to the port side of the wreck.
After it's been rotated, the wreck will rest on a false sea bottom. It consists of giant cement sacks used to fill the space between the two spurs of rock on which the ship rests.
Three large platforms and three smaller ones have been fixed into the granite ground by drilling 6-foot holes.
A crane has installed 15 refloating caissons on the side of the ship that's above water.
Filled with water, the caissons will help pull the ship upright.
To right the ship, jacks have been attached to the caissons.
The jacks will tighten several cables attached to the top of the caissons and to the platforms, which will be pulled seaward.
On the other side, cables attached to the land will ensure the ship does not slide off the platform.
“This is a very delicate phase, during which the forces involved have to be offset carefully to rotate the wreck without deforming the hull,” Titan said.
When the ship is upright, other caissons will be fixed to the other side of the hull to stabilize it.
At the end of the emptying process, the Concordia will be upright, although a section of about 60 feet will remain submerged.
Sandwiched between the caissons, the ship will be towed to an Italian port for dismantling in spring 2014.