ROME — An international team of engineers and other experts has no ‘‘Plan B’’ if an attempt to right the hulking wreck of the grounded Costa Concordia goes wrong and the cruise liner splits apart or falls back on its side near an Italian island.
The team is attempting an unprecedented engineering bet to remove the luxury liner from just outside the harbor of Giglio island, where it has been on its side after smashing into a jagged reef. Assuming seas are calm, the ship will be slowly pulled to an upright position in an hours-long operation so it can be towed to a mainland port and turned into scrap.
The possibility that the Mediterranean cruise liner might fall apart is a ‘‘remote event,’’ insisted Franco Gabrielli, head of Italy’s Civil Protection agency, at a briefing Thursday to lay out logistics. ‘‘If the ship doesn’t turn’’ back upright, ‘‘there is no other way’’ to try it again.
Thirty-two people died when the Concordia crashed on the evening of Jan. 13, 2012, as the captain steered the vessel close to Giglio’s rocky coastline. The reef sliced a 230-foot long gash into a side of the hull, seawater rushed in, and the Concordia began to list so quickly that many lifeboats couldn’t be lowered to help save all the 4,200 passengers and crew.
A 500-member salvage team from 24 nations will conduct the operation to move the ship, known in nautical terms as parbuckling, before the autumn storm season, when winds and powerful waves risk battering it to the point that it won’t hold together.
Dozens of crank-like pulleys will start slowly rotating the ship upright at a rate of about 3 yards per hour. Steel chains weighing 17,000 tons have been looped under the vessel to help pull it upright. Tanks filled with water on the exposed side will also help rotate it upward.
Parbuckling has never been applied to a large cruise liner.
Bodies of two of the 32 victims, an Italian passenger and a Filipino crew member, were never found.
Once the ship is set upright and stabilized, its interior will be searched again in hopes of finding their remains, authorities said.