One stage in the Titan/Micoperi plan for the salvage of the Costa Concordia.
The massive Costa Concordia still rests on its side on the rocky sea floor off the coast of Giglio — and will for many more months.
Early work has started on a job that has captured worldwide attention for its complexity.
“This will be the biggest wreck removal ever undertaken,” said Mark Hoddinott, general manager of the International Salvage Union. “Technically, it’s going to be very challenging.”
Preliminary steps started in June, and the rest of the delicate operation will unfold in stages until the ship is towed to an Italian port by the end of January -- if everything follows the schedule.
“The main enemy is winter weather and sea conditions,” said Pier Donato Vercellone, the project’s media consultant in a statement. “If sea conditions will not allow us to stabilize and upright the vessel according [to] schedule, the risk will increase.”
For now, workers from Pompano Beach-based Titan Salvage and Italian marine firm Micoperi are performing inspections that will wrap up by the end of the month. Exterior portions of the ship have been cut off, and the rock stuck in the ship’s port side is also being removed.
Before attempting to move the ship, the companies will attach heavy cables that are connected to poles in order to keep it from sliding, according to a plan that was released publicly in May.
Once the ship is stabilized, an undersea platform will be built and anchored to the sea floor. Watertight boxes that, like the platform and holdback system will be specially made for the operation, will be attached to the side of the Concordia that is out of the water. The installation of those platforms and boxes, called caissons, is scheduled to be finished by Nov. 15.
On December 1, one of the most sensitive steps of the process is scheduled to start. Two cranes that are fixed to the undersea platform will pull the ship to an upright position in one piece. The boxes on the ship’s side will be filled with water to help it roll.
Once the ship is up, a set of caissons will be attached to the other side as well. Both will be emptied of water and filled with air to help the vessel float again — which is expected to happen by Jan. 15.
If all goes as planned, Concordia will be delivered to an Italian port by Jan. 31. The ship has been declared a constructive total loss, which means the cost of repairing the Concordia would be greater than its value.
Once the ship is gone, the sea floor will be cleaned and flora will be replanted. Work should be fully finished by April 30.
Between 30-200 people will be working on the project at any given time, depending on the phase, Vercellone said.
“This project has all the characteristics and technical complexities to become a successful undertaking that has no precedent, but at the same time it is a first time and we will face it with all the appropriate cautions,” Vercellone said in an email. “Although all the techniques and methods are well-known and proven on the offshore and salvage industry, there might be some unknowns in a project of this scope. We are sure we have made the right decision and will continue to work to our best ability and on schedule.”