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.
Assuming seas are calm, the 114,500-ton ship will be raised on Monday morning in a procedure that could take 12 hours. The $800-million refloating is considered to be one of the largest, most expensive and most daunting salvage operation in history.
"This is an operation that has never been attempted before. Once started, there is no going back,” Franco Gabrielli, head of the civil protection agency said on Thursday at a press conference.
The Concordia struck a rock and capsized 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. The ship claimed 32 lives as it tumbled onto its side with more than 4,200 people aboard.
The U.S. company Titan Salvage and Italian marine firm Micoperi, the companies engaged in the salvage operation, have first secured and stabilized the rusting wreck, which was lying dangerously on two spurs of rock just off land. In order to prevent any slipping or sinking, anchor blocks tied to the sea bed and giant cement sacks to fill the space between the two spurs of rock have been used.
The operation also relies on underwater platforms on the seaward side of the ship and on watertight boxes, or caissons, which have been placed to the side of the ship that sits above water.
The 65-degree rotation will be performed using jacks. These will be tightening 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.