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Italian cruise ship set aright after maritime disaster

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 17th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

After one of the worst maritime disasters in recent history, the Italian cruise ship the Costa Concordia has not been pulled aright after an $800 million salvage effort. The Concordia capsized off the Italian coast 20 months ago, taking 32 lives. After a 19-hour operation, the ship is finally back in an upright position.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Fifty-six giant pulleys heaved the half-submerged vessel aright. The operation revealed a section of the hull darkened by rust and algae during months underwater.

"The rotation has finished its course, we are at zero degrees, the ship is resting on the platforms," Italy's civil protection chief, Franco Gabrielli said. The announcement was made in the wee hours of the morning at a news conference on Giglio island, which was met by applause and cheers.

"It could not have gone better than this," Franco Porcellacchia, an engineer working on the salvage for ship owner Costa Cruises said. "It was a perfect operation."

The ship remained impaled on two underwater granite outcrops since January 2012. At that time,  Captain Francesco Schettino, ran it aground in an attempt to "sail past" maneuver close to Giglio. Schettino is standing trial on charges of manslaughter and abandoning his ship.

About 4,200 passengers and crew were forced to jump into lifeboats or plunge into water after the ship ran aground. Thirty-two people drowned, some of them sucked under by whirlpools created as the ship tilted.

At 950 feet long, the 114,000-ton Costa Concordia is believed to be the biggest ship to be hoisted back upright after capsizing.

During months of careful preparation by U.S. company Titan Salvage and its Italian partner, Micoperi, more than 1,000 bags of cement were placed underwater. Six underwater platforms were then built for the cruise ship to be righted onto, in a technique known as "parbuckling."

"It was like being in ancient Egypt, watching the construction of the pyramids," Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli said.

Parbuckling is a technique that has been used in the past, in particular on such World War II warships such as the  the battleship Oklahoma, which was righted by the U.S. military in 1943 after it was bombed during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

After three hours of hauling during which the pulleys exerted 6,000 tons of pressure, the ship was wrenched free from the two granite outcrops, which had penetrated 18 feet into the hull.

The ship was then slowly turned throughout the afternoon until 11 metal boxes, some as tall as 11-story buildings, were welded to the exposed side of the ship touched the water.

Salvage workers based in a control center on a barge off the bow of the ship switched off the pulleys and opened valves in the boxes to allow water in at 1,000 cubic feet a minute.

As the cruise ship rose out of the water, two large indentations could be seen on the side of the ship where it had been pinned to the rocky outcrops.

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