More than two years after it ran aground off the Italian coast, the cruise ship Costa Condordia is floating again. Salvage workers managed that feat Monday by expelling water from large caissons, the pontoons that are attached to its sides.
“Six hours after the refloating began, the 115,000-ton vessel had cleared its custom-made platform by one meter,” reports NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli. “The ship is to be raised another meter today. Then it will be towed 90 feet eastward and anchored to the seabed and land with chains and cables.”
The initial moments of the refloating were seen as the most dangerous, as it wasn’t known if the hull could maintain its integrity. Today marks another step in the largest maritime salvage operation in history.
The current phase of the operation is expected to take about one week. Eventually, officials plan to tow the massive ship to Genoa, more than 100 miles away, to be used for scrap. The total salvage operation will reportedly cost more than $2 billion.
You’ll recall that back in January of 2012, the cruise ship calamity killed 32 people when it wrecked near the island of Giglio, off of Tuscany. One person remains missing, and the ship’s captain faces manslaughter and other charges. More than 4,000 people were on board the ship when it struck a rocky outcropping.
The wreck occurred in one of Europe’s largest marine sanctuaries. As CNN reports, since 2012, “24 metric tonnes of debris, including furniture, dishes, food, personal effects and ship parts, have been recovered from the seabed.”
The Concordia was righted last September, in an operation that took 19 hours.