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Costa Concordia

Name
Costa Concordia
Accident date
13/01/2012
Location
Italy
Accident area
island of giglio, south of tuscany, italy
Spill area
Inshore
Cause of spill
Grounding
Quantity transported
2,400 tonnes (bunker fuel)
Nature of pollutant
heavy fuel oil
Built date
2006 length 290 m draught 8.2 m flag italian shipowner costa crociere (italy)
Length
290.00 m
Draught
8.20 m

The incident

On the evening of Friday 13 January 2012, the cruise ship Costa Concordia, having left Civitavecchia near Rome a few hours earlier for a Mediterranean cruise, suddenly struck a rock near the island of Giglio.

Over 4,000 people of 60 nationalities, including around 1,000 crew members, were onboard the liner. The vessel rolled onto its starboard side, around 50 m from the shore. Seawater gushed in through a gaping breach in the hull. Within a few minutes, the Costa Concordia was listing heavily. Panic set in onboard and, in particularly difficult circumstances, several thousand people were evacuated.

Rescue operations came to a close on 27 January. In total, 30 people were killed and 2 others missing, presumed dead. The Italian authorities definitively stopped searching for bodies on 31 January.

 

Wreck of the Costa Concordia
Wreck of the Costa Concordia

 

Pollution risk

The island of Giglio is part of an archipelago of 7 islands located in a protected nature reserve. It is a very popular tourist area, renowned for its small rocky creeks. The area around the island, in addition to being home to fish and seabirds, is a whale sanctuary.

“The environmental risk due to the sinking of the Costa Concordia is very high and response is urgent” stated the Italian Environment Minister 3 days after the disaster. No significant pollution was observed around the wreck.

The aim was to prevent the fuel from escaping from the ship. Its tanks contained around 2,400 tonnes of highly viscous heavy fuel oil, similar to that of the Erika.

A team was on site to attempt to improve the ship's safety and prevent any pollution. The cruise ship had a double hull which limited the risk of a major oil spill.

Sorbent booms were deployed around the wreck to stop any pollution from spreading if the fuel oil were to be released into the sea.

On the 18th, the French maritime authorities sent response equipment and the specialised oil spill response vessel Jason on site as a precaution.

In order to prepare for a possible spill of pollutant at sea, Cedre and Météo France launched fuel oil drift simulations using the slick drift model MOTHY. This data was intended to help define the response strategy to be implemented in the event of a leak.

 

Wreck of the Costa Concordia
Wreck of the Costa Concordia

 

Fuel removal

The cruise ship owner contracted Dutch company SMIT and Italian firm NERI to pump out the fuel. In the temperature conditions prevailing in the area, the highly viscous fuel had to be heated in order to be pumped out. A floating barge was connected to the underwater tanks and the recovered fuel was stored on this barge and then evacuated to an oil tanker, positioned next to the barge.

The pumping operation began on 12 February and was completed in early April. Initially, 6 large tanks, located in the bow of the Costa Concordia, were emptied. These tanks contained 67% of the fuel onboard. It took two and a half months to empty all 15 double-hulled tanks. To avoid affecting the ship's balance, water was injected into the tanks as the fuel was being transferred onto the barge.

 

Oil pumping operation
Oil pumping operation

 

Managing the wreck

In the days following the accident, the priority was to stabilise the ship on the rocks on which it was resting. The Costa Concordia was at risk of sliding off the rocks and sinking further, into nearby waters 100 metres deep.

Several solutions were put forward to remove the wreck of the liner from its delicate position.

  • The first involved patching up the hull of the ship using large metal plates to enable it to be refloated then towed to a port to be dismantled.
  • Another suggestion involved surrounding the wreck with buoys to give it buoyancy.
  • Dismantling the ship on site was also considered. Before cutting up the hull, the inside of the liner would need to be emptied, which would mean removing its 1,500 cabins, theatre, cinema and 13 bars, as well as the oil and many chemicals it was carrying.

In the end, the vessel was declared a constructive total loss by the insurers. Costa Cruises chose the first solution for the removal of the wreck and issued an international tender. US firm Titan Salvage was awarded the contract, in association with Micoperi, an Italian firm specialised in subsea operations.

In May 2012, once the necessary permits had been issued, Titan Salvage and Micoperi presented the wreck removal plan to Costa Cruises.

Three distinct phases were scheduled:
- refloating of the wreck,
- transfer to an Italian port
- cleaning of the seabed.

 

Righting and refloating the wreck

Operations to refloat the ship began in July 2012. Around 400 specialists from all across the globe were involved, including around 100 divers. The stability of the Costa Concordia was constantly monitored by 11 measurement systems.

Rotation of the Costa Concordia
Rotation of the Costa Concordia

In preparation for salvage operations, very advanced engineering work was carried out. The damage to the hull was precisely mapped in order to determine the position of the anchor points used to rotate the wreck. In total, 6 undersea platforms were built for the wreck to rest on after rotation, to prevent it from slipping and damaging the seabed. Around thirty 4,000 m3 caissons were attached to the hull in order to rotate the vessel – the so-called parbuckling operation – and help it to float.

In mid-September 2013, some 20 months after the accident, the parbuckling operation began. The efforts of the many specialists mobilised for over a year paid off: the wreck of the Costa Concordia was successfully righted during the night of 16th to 17th September 2013. The parbuckling project attracted a great amount of media attention and viewers worldwide watched the massive 290-metre vessel being rotated via live streaming.

A detailed inspection of the damages suffered by the vessel was conducted.

On 14th July 2014, the Costa Concordia, surrounded by gigantic watertight tanks or "sponsons", rose two metres off the seabed and was successfully refloated.

 

 

 

Costa Concordia refloating

 

Transfer to Genoa

On 23rd July 2014, the Costa Concordia left the accident area to be taken to the port of Genoa to be dismantled. The 280-km journey took 5 days and was closely monitored. Over 500 people were involved and a 14-vessel convoy followed the wreck. On 27th July, the wreck arrived at its destination in the port of Pra-Voltri where it is to be dismantled through a 2-year project.

 

Dismantling

The first stage of the dismantling operation will involve emptying the vessel of its contents, in particular furniture, to lighten it and reduce its draught. The teams in charge of cleaning the wreck must also manage the different liquids polluted by various chemicals (detergents, medicines etc.). Twelve tonnes of toxic substances are contained within sealed containers.

 

Environmental impact

This is considered to be the largest wreck recovery operation known to date. Throughout operations, Costa Cruises and Titan/Micoperi have attempted to minimise environmental impacts.

A major effort to survey the species present was undertaken prior to operations, highlighting the presence of Posidonia, coral formations and noble pen shells (Pinna Nobilis, one of the largest shellfish in the world).

To protect the island of Giglio's tourism and economic activities, the operating base, where all the equipment and materials will be received, will be located on the mainland.

 

Cost

The total cost of operations due to the grounding of the Costa Concordia is estimated at €1.5 billion (righting, refloating, stabilising, transfer to Genoa, dismantling).

 

Legal action

The first elements of the enquiry and the different witness accounts cast the blame on the captain Francesco Schettino. He was imprisoned the day after the accident, accused of multiple manslaughter, causing shipwrecking by sailing too close to the coast and abandoning ship.
In late January, Costa Cruises offered each passenger €11,000 compensation as well as a refund for all expenses caused by the cruise and the cost of their return home. In exchange, passengers had to agree to drop all future litigation against Costa Cruises.

In early February, the court of Paris opened a preliminary enquiry into the circumstances of the incident and tasked the maritime police force with hearing all the French survivors. The court is to compile all the complaints filed in France. The main enquiry is being conducted in Italy. Several victims' associations have already been set up in Italy, France and the US.

On 2nd March, the court of Grossetto in Tuscany held the first preliminary hearing; this was the first stage in what is set to be a complicated legal process. The aim is to examine the evidence and elements of the enquiry, to be used in the criminal proceedings.

In mid-september, an expert report, submitted to Grossetto court, places the blame on Costa Cruises.The company is accused of having made errors, in particular by underestimating the severity of the incident at the time it occurred. The report places most of the blame for the disaster on the ship's captain.
In total, 10 people are under investigation in the incident enquiry under Italian law: 7 crew members and 3 Costa Cruises managers.
The accusations are: negligent homicide, causing a shipwrecking and failing to communicate with the authorities.
The first technical hearing took place on 15 October 2012.
On 10th April 2013, Costa Cruises accepted a one million euro fine to settle potential criminal charges, thus recognising its administrative responsibility. Around the same time, the Italian accident investigation report was published, and placed the blame on the captain, whose trial began on 9th July 2013. The captain faced charges of multiple manslaughter due to negligence, abandoning ship and environmental damage.

Last update: 17/09/2013

External links

The Parbuckling Project, Concordia wreck removal project informative website.

Italian Environment Ministry, Press review (in Italian)

Micoperi, Website of the Italian contractor specialised in underwater construction and engineering.

Titan Savage, Website of the US firm specialised in marine salvage and wreck removal.

Costa Cruises, Press releases.