5 Things You Need to Know About the “End” of the Costa Concordia Disaster

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By now, many people may have forgotten about the tragic wreck of the Costa Concordia. Sinking in January of 2012, the massive ocean liner struck a reef off the western coast of Italy, foundering and capsizing, and causing multiple casualties. While the ship will remain where it sank until well after that grim anniversary, on Sept. 17, a momentous step in the months-long operation to remove the garish eyesore went off without a hitch: the Costa Concordia no longer rests on her side on the seafloor, it is now perched on a massive platform, its last stop before removal in the spring. In case you haven’t followed the story, or in case you tuned out months ago, here’s everything you need to know about this maritime mess.

5 Why Did It Sink?

The Costa Concordia, a cruise ship of more than 950 feet in length, built at a cost of more than half a billion dollars and capable of carrying more than 4,800 passengers and crew members, launched on her maiden voyage in July of 2006. Her cruising days ended on Jan. 13th, 2012 because her captain, a reckless man (who also turned out to be an abject coward) named Francesco Schettino, wanted to show off. He took the ship off of a computer-guided route, boasting that he knew the waterways off the island of Giglio and saying “I love to do the fly-by near Giglio.” Clearly he did not know the waterways well at all, because he rammed his ship into some submerged rocks.

4 What Happened After the Initial Crash?

Image Credit: Wikipedia

This is where things went from awful to catastrophic. After an order to abandon ship is issued, all crew and passengers are supposed to be off the stricken vessel within 30 minutes. In this case, the order was not issued until an hour after the initial crash, and the evacuation was not completed for another six hours. During this time, the shifting of the massive ship and flooding in its submerged decks caused loss of life and dozens of injuries, likely preventable by a well-orchestrated evacuation. One life not lost was that of the captain, who initially abandoned his own ship. Capt. Schettino later claimed he had fallen into a lifeboat, but few took this for truth. He was ordered back to the ship by coastal authorities and arrested the next day.

3 How Many Casualties Were There?

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Thirty people are known to have died in the disaster, with two others officially listed as missing, but presumed dead. Hundreds more people were injured, some of them catastrophically, losing body parts and, in one case, eye sight. Many of the fatalities were caused by those who could not access lifeboats on the submerged half of the ship and subsequently either dove or fell into the sea; had the captain ordered the ship abandoned earlier, the lifeboats would have been accessible.

2 How Was the Ship Salvaged?

The process of turning a capsized vessel upright is called “parbuckling,” and it is nothing new to skilled nautical engineering types. But the Costa Concordia is by far the largest ship ever righted using this technique. After months of planning, the actual operation took more than 19 hours to complete. Dozens of massive steel cables were lashed to the Costa Concordia’s hull and then connected to a series of carefully placed counter weights and slowly pulled upright. It is now sitting at the proper “attitude,” meaning upright, upon a massive submerged platform built to hold the wreck. The ship is still largely submerged, but will eventually be raised and removed.

1 What Next for the Costa Concordia?

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In the spring of 2014, a series of massive floats will be attached to the ruined ship and then inflated with air, gently lifting the vessel off its temporary platform. Then it will be towed away to an unspecified shipyard and chopped up into scrap. The salvage operation has already cost nearly $800 million, much more than the Costa Concordia initially cost to build. By the time the ship is dismantled, less than a decade after it first took to the sea, it may well have been a two billion dollar debacle.

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