July 27, 8:00 a.m. EDT: Costa Concordia docks at Genoa
As the wrecked Costa Concordia arrived at first light on Sunday off the northern Italian city of Genoa Prà-Voltri, the ship's name, written in big blue capital letters on the bow, peeped proudly from the towering steel boxes that kept it floating for almost almost 200 miles in a four-day voyage from the Tuscan island of Giglio.
It was the Concordia's final goodbye to the sea. Amid winds of up to 20 knots, eight port tugboats began the complex maneuvering operations to dock the ship.
Dark clouds created an almost unreal atmosphere, the massive ship convoy appearing like a funeral procession accompanying the Concordia to meet her fate.
In the last miles of her voyage, the Concordia hoisted a red-and-white "H" flag, signaling that a pilot was on board. There were four pilots on board the Concordia to assist salvage master Nick Sloane. At the command was Giovanni Lettich, who knows the ship very well.
He was one of the pilots on board the Concordia when the luxury liner was launched from the shipyard in Sestri Ponente back in 2005.
The arrival in the industrial port completes the largest maritime salvage in history and one of the most ambitious and complex engineering feats.
It is estimated the project will cost Carnival Corp, the owner of the Costa Concordia, and its insurers more than 1.5 billion euros ($2.14 billion), more than three times the cost of the ship.
A consortium led by Italian engineering group Saipem and Genoa-based San Giorgio del Porto will dismantle the ship in a 100-million-euro ($134.24-million) operation which might take up to two years.
Around 80 percent of the ship will be recycled in a four stage project which will begin with stripping the interior furnishings and fittings of the surfaced decks.
Everything will have to be destroyed, preventing the sale of memorabilia out of respect for the diver who died during the wreck removal operations and the 32 victims of the tragedy which occurred on Jan. 13, 2012.
At that time the ship, carrying more than 4,200 passengers, capsized as Captain Francesco Schettino allegedly drove it on an unauthorized route too close to shore, ripping a huge gash in the hull.
The body of one of the victims, Indian waiter Russel Rebello, has never been found. The first two weeks will be devoted to search the Concordia's interior for the remains.
Update: July 26, 13:30 p.m.
The Costa Concordia has now emerged in the Genoa horizon, unscathed after a stormy night of rain, rough seas, and winds reaching up to 30 knots.
The wrecked cruise liner is less than 20 nautical miles away from the port of Genoa Prà-Voltri.
It took the Concordia little more than three days of navigation to reach the Ligurian port where she will meet her fate in a scrap yard.
At the moment, the ship and her 14 vessel convoy are traveling at a speed of about 1 knot per hour.
The pace will be further reduced in the coming hours to allow the arrival in the port during the night between Saturday and Sunday.
Because of complex mooring maneuvering, the Concordia is scheduled to enter the port during daylight in the early morning of Sunday.
Update: July 25, 9:30 a.m.
The Costa Concordia has already traveled 120 nautical miles since it left Giglio. Nearly 70 miles are left to reach the Italian port of Genoa where it will be dismantled.
The journey -- accompanied by dolphins -- has proceeded without problems, and so far there are no signs of any environmental pollution.
Last night the wrecked cruise liner was towed at a brisk speed of 2.8 knots, putting it on course to arrive at the final destination by Saturday evening. The rush is possibly due to a bad weather forecast, with rain and winds expected tonight.
The Concordia will spend the night in a bay. Then, under the daylight of Sunday morning, it will be moored in Genoa with a complex maneuvering which will take up to eight hours.
Meanwhile, in Giglio, the search has resumed to find the remains of Indian waiter Russel Rebello, the only missing victim of the tragedy. The search for his remains will also continue inside the ship before its dismantling in Genova.
Update: July 23, 3:20 p.m. Costa Concordia departs from Giglio
After two and half years and a disaster that claimed 32 lives, the Costa Concordia, half a wreck and half a ship, is sailing again.
Church bells, sirens and applause resounded in the Italian port of Giglio this morning as a huge fountain of water sprang from one of the tugboats near the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner. The spectacular sight marked the end of the maneuvering operations and the moment the Concordia said goodbye to Giglio.
Since it capsized on the rocky shore of the Tuscan island on Jan. 13, 2012, killing 32 people, the wreck has been a haunting presence, a reminder of a night of terror and death. The cries of more than 4200 scared and injured passengers still echo in the residents' memories.
But at night, with all her lights on, the ship became almost reassuring presence, her devastated, twisted starboard side disappearing in the darkness.
It took the Concordia little more than a hour to partially sink when it capsized on the night Captain Francesco Schettino allegedly drove it on an unauthorized route too close to shore, ripping a huge gash in the hull. It took salvage crews 922 days to put the ship upright, refloat, and tow her away during what has become the largest maritime salvage operation in history.
Sandwiched between 30 flotation caissons, or sponsons, connected under the rusting hull by huge chains and cables weighing about 30 million metric tons, the Concordia left from Giglio with a massive convoy of 14 ships. They will escort, in a sort of funeral procession, the once gleaming white liner all the way to Genoa. There the Concordia will meet its fate in a scrapeyard.
"I'll miss her," an elderly woman said, with tears in her eyes. Along with other locals, tourists and journalists, she watched the ship fading away in the horizon.
Seen from the open sea during the ship's first five miles (journalists were offered a close up view of the sailing wreck) the Concordia looks like an unreal sight, a rusty atoll with towering steel boxes at its sides which has risen from the waters.
To the Corsican, as well as environmental campaigners, the Concordia is a "floating bomb" which could explode anytime with her cargo of 12 tons of toxic substances and polluted seawater causing a "maritime Chernobyl."
Italian authorities have reassured that "rigorous and constant" checks will be systematically carried out on the waters around ship.
Able to withstand waves of up to 8.5 feet (which have never occurred in the past 20 years at this time of year in Italy) the wrecked ship is being towed from the bow by the Dutch Blizzard and the Vanuatu-flagged Resolve Earl, two strong tugboats, which churn ahead of the Concordia by about 0.5 miles.
Two other auxiliary tugs are positioned about 0.7 miles aft of the ship. All around, at a distance of 0.8 miles, is an impressive armada of anti-pollution and safety vessels.
They include two oil spill response ships carrying absorbent booms, two vessels equipped with oil skimmers, a pontoon with a 200-metric-ton crane to be used in case one of the flotation sponsons slips, a ship equipped with a helicopter, and other vessels carrying marine biologists and environmental specialists for water testing.
Aboard the Concordia in the so called remote control room, a container built on top of the liner, is a team of 12 people. These skilled technicians, including savage master Nick Sloane, have been in charge of the wreck removal operation ever since the ship was pulled upright last September.
Another 47 technicians, including divers and salvation experts, are ready to act 24 hours a day.
One of the most impressive environmental disaster response convoys ever assembled, the flotilla will sail approximately 200 nautical miles -- past the islands of Montecristo, Pianosa and the French island of Corsica and through a whale and dolphin reserve -- before reaching Genoa.
The passage near Corsica will be closely watched by two ships of the French navy. Aboard the ships there will be Segolene Royal, the French Environment Minister, and the Defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
With the Concordia traveling at the current speed of two knots an hour, it is estimated the convoy will reach the port of Genoa between Saturday July 26th and Sunday July 27th.
At 6 pm today the Concordia had navigated for about 18 miles, after two changes of directions corresponding to two of the 13 planned steps. The convoy is about 11 miles northwest from Isola del Giglio and about 20 miles from Isola di Montecristo.
Discovery News will follow the voyage with daily updates.
Update: July 22, 5:20 p.m. Costa Concordia's last night in Giglio
It’s the last night in Giglio for the Costa Concordia. After living with the wrecked ship for two and half years, residents of the Tuscan island feel a relief mixed with sadness at the idea of the ship’s departure tomorrow.
“She has been haunting us ever since the disaster. It’s a sight of death, devastation and sorrow,” said a shopkeeper at the port.
“But as odd as it might seem, I will miss her. I‘ll miss the lights always on at night. She kept me company in the winter days,” she said.
Update July 22, 1:30 p.m. Fully refloated, Costa Concordia is ready to leave Refloating operations have finally ended. The Concordia is now ready to leave for her last voyage to Genoa. As the ship was constantly lifted in the past nine days, she lost 105,000 tons of water.
Maneuvers to tow the wreck away will start tomorrow at around 8.30 a.m.
"It's a complex operation. The ship will be first turned to east, and within three hours we should be able to leave the port. In the evening, we will be in the horizon," salvage master Nick Sloane said.
Update: July 22, 10:20 a.m. Costa Concordia is prepared for her last voyage. As she gradually emerged from the waters, the wrecked Costa Concordia looked more and more like an awful sea beast with a dirty brown mouth wide open.
Now it appears the once gleaming white luxury liner will have a little makeup before leaving for her last voyage.
Salvage crews are currently at work to clean the bow with jets of compressed air.
Delays, misunderstandings and a growing French protest against the ship's controversial route to Genoa are heating things up on the eve of the wrecked Costa Concordia departure.
Critics complain that no exhaustive explanation was given about the reason of the repeated delays of the departure, and wondered why Dutchman Hans Bosch, a towmaster, was introduced as the man in command of towing away the wreck. In reality, the real commander, who will decide the route and direct all operations, is Dutchman Rowdy Boneveld.
"The departure of the Costa Concordia is now getting grotesque contours," the Italian daily La Stampa wrote.
Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy's Civil Protection, openly admitted the mistake. "We slipped on this, but please put aside conspiratorial theories," he said.
It remains unclear why Bosch himself did not correct the misunderstanding during the press briefing.
But trouble is not over for the ambitious "Wreck Removal Project."
The once gleaming white luxury liner, whose Latin name ironically means "harmony," may cause a diplomatic incident between Italy and France.
A Corsican association along with 18 mayors, including the one from Bastia, have signed a petition against what they call a "floating bomb" which could potentially cause a "marine Chernobyl."
Including a tricky passage between marine sanctuaries in the Tuscan archipelago and Corsica, the 200-mile-long voyage to Genoa won't get close to the Corsican shore. And although the ship will travel through international waters, any oil or other toxic materials would likely be carried by currents into French waters.
For these reasons the mayors are asking to halt "all towing operations until clear and credible answers are given and environmental guarantees are provided."
The protest is likely to be ignored, as technicians, who have yet to lower the last starboard sponson, promises that all technical operations will be over by sunset.
The flags of Titan and Micoperi, the marine salvage companies in charge of the Costa Concordia project, have been hoisted the Blue Peter flag, signaling that the ship is ready to sail.
"Unless a meteorite hits us, we are going to leave tomorrow," Gabrielli told reporters.
July 21, 1 p.m. EDT: Official: Costa Concordia will be towed away on Wednesday Another delay marked the Concordia refloating on the eighth day of operations.
Although the weather forecast looks promising for tomorrow, the ship will be towed away on Wednesday, two days later originally planned.
Sergio Girotto, project manager for Italian salvage firm Micoperi, said the unexpected delays were mainly due to bad weather conditions over the past few days.
He dismissed rumors referring to difficulties in securing a sponson. "There are no technical issues at all," he said.
The delay upset Giglio’s mayor, Sergio Ortelli. “We are very concerned for the tourist season. We are giving a message of uncertainty and this obviously doesn’t help,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Concordia continues to rise from the waters, now looking like a huge, awful fish with a dirty brown mouth.
“It’s quite an impressive look,” Franco Porcellacchia, director of technical operations with Costa Cruises, said.He noted that water is lapping the third deck, while there are still 2 meters (6.5 feet) to go.
“We are reaching the final stage. With the current draft, the ship is already able to face her last voyage,” he said.
July 21, 3:00 a.m. EDT: Costa Concordia: prow is completely out. The massive, rusting prow of the Costa Concordia is now out of the water.
Work had to be halted in the night because of strong winds and rough seas. This morning, salvage master Nick Sloane told reporters the Concordia departure from Giglio could be further delayed because of bad sea conditions.
A meeting is being held to decide whether a new departure date should be set.
July 20, 11:00 a.m. EDT: Costa Concordia: tourists flock to watch the refloating
A stream of tourists flocked to Giglio to watch the refloating operations. Some even got out their brushes and paints to immortalize the last weekend of the ship on the Tuscan island.
Meanwhile, the wreck has been lifted by 7.5 meter (24.6 feet).
“It needs to be lifted by other 6 meters (19.6 feet),” Franco Porcellacchia, director of technical operations with Costa Cruises, said.
Once the last starboard sponson is lowered to its final position, decks 4 and 3 will emerge rapidly one after the other. The operation is likely to occur during the night.
Update: July 20, 3:40 a.m. EDT: Costa Concordia
As the Concordia continues to emerge, it releases water and some of its contents: clothes, suitcases, furniture, pillows, mattresses, life jackets are among the objects that are now being recovered from the waters around the ship.
Yesterday some of these items reached the nearby beach of Arenella and were collected by swimmers who promptly announced their catch on Twitter.
Maria Sargentini, director of the Environmental Observatory, asked that immediate testing and checks are carried out.
At about 11 pm last night, 50 liters of hydrocarbons was spotted in the mid ship-aft of the wreck. The area was cleaned through the use of absorbent booms.
At the moment, there is no evidence of a leakage in progress.
The team is replacing the absorbing booms in the area. Technical assessments showed no damage in the structure, nor in the hot tap flanges.
Update: July 20, 12:10 a.m. EDT: Costa Concordia: bow resurfaces
The tip of the Costa Concordia’s bow is now clearly visible. A good part of the deck 4, the so called deck of death, has also emerged. Here divers found most of the victims after the ship struck a rock off Giglio and capsized on Jan. 13, 2012.
The ship will be lifted even more during the day, as salvage crews will pump compressed air into the sponsons to provide buoyancy.
Update: July 19, 11:30 a.m. EDT: Costa Concordia will be towed away on Tuesday
Only one chain has to be connected before compressed air is pumped in the sponsons for the full refloating.
The ship is now 25 meters (82 feet) underwater.
“There are two meters (6.5 feet) left to the bow. By the end of the day, it might be visible,” Franco Porcellacchia, director of technical operations with Costa Cruises, said at the usual afternoon press briefing.
He stressed there are no problems with calculations about the ship’s actual weight, although the draft for the voyage to Genoa has been modified to 20 meters (65.6 feet) rather than the planned 17.5 (57.4 feet).
“That’s the best condition for the hull. It will be able to better withstand winds and waves,” Porcellacchia said.
Meanwhile, Franco Gabrielli, head of the civil protection agency overseeing the salvage, announced the Concordia will be towed away on Tuesday, one day later than planned.
“Wind forecast for Monday suggest not to leave that day. We expect waves up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) and winds up to 25 knots,” Gabrielli said.
Towing operations will then begin on Tuesday morning after the first ferry has arrived in Giglio.
Update: July 19, 4:30 a.m. EDT: Costa Concordia: Deck 4 looming
The sign “Concordia” emerges below crashed and windowless cabins.
Operations to control ballast are performed; the wreck is stable in its position. So far an average refloating of about 6 meters (19.6 feet) has been reached.
There are still 2 meters (6.5 feet) for deck 4 to refloat.
Update: July 19, 1:30 a.m. EDT: Costa Concordia: Deck 5 emerges As Giglio woke up, the fifth, battered deck of the Costa Concordia was out of the water. The resurface was accompanied by a rotten egg like odor, signalling the presence of H2S, hydrogen sulfide gas, a byproduct of decomposition. Salvage crews were prepared, as they expected to find the gas. According to the Environmental Observatory, the gas produced no risk for Giglio residents.
Now the ship has emerged by 5 meters (16.40 feet) Work will continue non-stop today to raise deck 4 and deck 3. The process will lift the wrecked liner by 32-36 feet, in preparation for towing it away.
Update: July 18, 1:40 p.m. EDT: Costa Concordia raised by 13.6 feet
The pontoons finally moved to the bow area to connect the last chain and three cables to the remaining sponson, called S4.
“Right now, the ship has emerged by 4.15 meters (13.6 feet) and soon deck 5 will be completely out of water,” said Franco Porcellacchia, director of technical operations with Costa Cruises.
A dark brown part of the ship, underwater for the past two and half years, can now be seen -- as well as the outline of the deck.
“We have full control of the ship. We are calm and confident everything will work out just fine,” Porcellacchia added.
As soon as the last chain is connected, most likely by tomorrow morning, technicians will begin to fill all the sponsons with compressed air. This will raise the ship by another 32-36 feet.
Despite work proceeding at full speed the entire day, there's little hope the Concordia will departure from Giglio on Monday. Strong winds, up to 30 knots, are forecast for that day, making it unsafe to tow the ship away.
Update: July 18, 2:30 a.m. EDT: Costa Concordia lifted another 3 feet
Divers worked all night on the complex task of connecting the last chains and sponson.
With the lowering of a starboard sponson known as S12 yesterday evening, the Concordia rose an additional meter (3.2 feet), for a total of 4 meters (13 feet). The lift is particularly visible at the bow where a submerged part of the ship appears underneath Giglio's clear waters.
As other starboard sponsons will be lowered in the next hours, deck 5 may finally emerge.
Update: July 17, 2 p.m. EDT: Removal might be delayed The wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship may be towed away from Giglio on Tuesday, a day later than planned, Franco Gabrielli, head of the civil protection agency overseeing the salvage, said at the afternoon press briefing.
“Last night strong winds and rough seas produced a six-hour delay, then there was a problem with a tangled chain,” Gabrielli said.
“But these issues have no influence on the project; the ship is stable,” he added.
At the moment of the refloating and towing, the Concordia’s hull will be wrapped by 48 huge chains. Right now there are still two chains and four cables to be connected to three of the starboard sponsons.
“It is reasonable to say the refloating of deck 5 will occur on Saturday. As for the Concordia’s departure, Monday is our objective, but we look also to Tuesday,” Gabrielli said.
He also admitted an error of 6 percent in the calculation of the ship’s weight.
“It’s not a problem since our hypothesis includes a much wider margin of error,” Gabrielli said.
Franco Porcellacchia, director of technical operations with Costa Cruises, explained that engineers estimated the actual weight of the ship at 70,000 tons, much less than the original 114,000 tons.
“In the past two-and-half years, significant weight has been removed. Then there is a series of variables, such as the actual permeability of the ship,” Porcellacchia said.
He noted that some water will remain inside the wreck once it is refloated. Just how much water, still unknown, will influence the total weight of the ship.
So far, the Concordia weighs 74,000 tons -- 4,000 tons more than estimated.
“With the refloating of deck 5 we will have more data. However, we are confident in our calculations,” Porcellacchia said.
Weather permitting, work to secure the remaining chains will continue through the night.
Update: July 17, 3 a.m. EDT: Operations stopped in the night Strong winds up to 27 knots forced the salvage team to stop their work last night.
“The cranes near the ship were tilting too much,” salvage master Nick Sloane said.
Operations to connect chains and cables resumed in the early morning.
The Concordia is currently kept in position by two tugs, Garibaldo and Red Wolf, on the east. They are now joined by the Blizzard, another tugboat which arrived at the site yesterday.
The tug Resolve Earl, already on site, and Blizzard will tow the wreck from the bow during the voyage to Genoa.
Sloane admitted the most difficult part will be when the ship leaves behind the northern tip of Corsica and navigates the open seas for 48 hours.
Update: July 16, 2:15 p.m. EDT No pollution recorded so far: A significant quantity of water came out of the wrecked Costa Concordia during the first day of the refloating but no significant pollution has been recorded so far around the ship.
Analysis of Giglio waters has revealed a slight presence of tensioactives (compounds used in detergents) and a concentration of copper around the bow.
"However, the values are within safety limits," Marcello Mossa Verre of the Regional Agency for Environmental ARPAT said at a press briefing.
Maria Sargentini, director of the Environmental Observatory, confirmed that "at the moment the refloating operations are not causing any environmental damage."
The announcement follows new concerns expressed from France about the possibility that the ship would spill a toxic mixture of chemicals, oils and heavy metals when it passes near Cape Corse in Corsica.
Ségolène Royal, France's Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, asked to be informed about the precise route of the Concordia convoy.
"I wish to have accurate information, this vagueness is unacceptable," she said.
She asked Italian authorities for a "written proof" that all fuel has been removed from the ship. But there is still time before the Concordia's departure.
At the moment a strong wind on the island makes it difficult for the salvage crew to work, but weather permitting, tomorrow "tangible results" might be seen, according to Franco Porcellacchia, the director of technical operations at Concordia's owner, Costa Cruises.
"Towing away the ship on Monday remains an achievable goal," he added.
Update: July 16, 10:10 a.m. EDT: Everything is under control Rumors about a possible miscalculation of the ship's actual weight began to circulate today, with some speculating that more sponsons will be necessary to refloat the 114,000-ton vessel.
At the midday press briefing, Franco Porcellacchia, director of technical operations with Costa Cruises, stressed that there is nothing to worry about.
"The entire refloating project relies on our hypothesis and calculations. Everything is under control," he said.
He explained that calculations on the Concordia's weight are constantly updated as the vessel is raised feet by feet.
"We are testing our hypothesis. To be safe, we calculated a margin of error of 5 percent," Porcellacchia said.
So far the ship has been raised on average by nearly 10 feet.
Update: July 16, 3:00 a.m. EDT: Refloating delayed Despite overnight work at the wrecked Costa Concordia, it appears operations will face a delay. Initially scheduled to occur on Thursday, the third stage of the refloating, when the ship will be raised by at least 40 feet, will begin on Friday, salvage master Nick Sloane told reporters.
Positioning the massive and heavy chains is a challenging job for divers, who have to face strong currents and the dangerous task of operating under a rusting hull which now floats, thanks to the sponsons welded on both sides of the ship.
"Connecting the chains to the sponsons is requiring more time than we had hoped, but tonight this operation should be over. Then tomorrow we will start to lower the starboard sponsons," Sloane said.
Update: July 15, 3:00 p.m. EDT: Almost at the end of the second day of the refloating, the Concordia appears to have been raised even more. A comparison between the stern sponsons clearly shows the ship has lifted in the past 24 hours.
"We have connected the S3 sponson, which is needed to give thrust to the ship. This has resulted with a lifting of the hull and a shift toward left," Franco Porcellacchia, director of technical operations with Costa Cruises, said.
Work at the wreck will continue during the night.
"This is a 24-hour operation," Porcellacchia said.
Update: July 15, 1:44 p.m. EDT: No sign of leaks have been seen around the ship so far, Franco Porcellacchia, director of technical operations with Costa Cruises, said at a press briefing.
Maria Sargentini, director of the Environmental Observatory, agreed, though she cautioned to wait for a more accurate report on Wednesday, as results of the first lab tests arrive.
"So far we did not record incidents of macroscopic turbidity; neither did we see floating elements," she said.
Giglio's waters appear pristine even around the area where the salvage team is operating, but technicians still have a long way to go before environmental concerns can be put aside.
Greenpeace and Italy's main environmental group, Legambiente, worry that the rusting hull of the Concordia may not withstand a five-day journey and could spew a toxic soup of chemicals, oils and heavy metals into the sea.
Indeed, over 69 million gallons of polluted water are still inside the ship, not to mention the 100 tons of fuel left behind when the Concordia’s tanks were emptied.
"The wrecked Concordia will cross the protected Cetacean Sanctuary during a delicate nursing season for sperm and fin whales," Angelo Gentili, president of Legambiente Tuscany, said.
"We are very worried about the effect spills or debris could have on them," he said.
Legambiente and Greenpeace will follow and monitor the Concordia on her last voyage.
July 15, 12:59 p.m. EDT Salvage crews worked through the night to secure the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner with anchors and chains in her new position some 98 feet away from the shore of the Tuscan island of Giglio.
After refloating the hull by 6.5 feet on Monday, technicians are working to connect and apply tension to the last four chains and six cables under the rusting hull. It's a delicate task: each chain ring weighs 400 kilos (880 lbs) and has a tension capability of 1,500 kilos (3,300 lbs).
This second stage of the refloating, due to last at least until Wednesday, also involves lowering 13 of the total 15 starboard sponsons to their final position, which was previously inaccessible, since the hull was resting on an artificial platform. The sponsons are 30 watertight boxes that are welded to the sides of the ship.
The entire refloating project can be seen through this 3D simulation released by the Parbuckling project.
The salvage team also released an underwater video of the now floating hull which has been recorded by a fleet of seven ROVs (Remote Operated Vehicles).
"The video shows a scrape near the bow, but there are no cracks at all," said Franco Porcellacchia, the director of technical operations at Concordia's owner, Costa Cruises.
He added that the 114,000-ton ship is likely to be towed to its final destination, the north-western Italian port of Genova, next Monday.