One year later, shipwreck remains in Italy

Country needs more time, money for removal project

Authorities must assess how to drain the Costa Concordia in order to remove it.
Maurizio Brambatti/EPA
Authorities must assess how to drain the Costa Concordia in order to remove it.

GIGLIO, Italy — More time and money will be needed to remove the Costa Concordia cruise ship from the rocks off Tuscany where it capsized last year, in part to ensure the toxic materials still trapped inside don’t leak into the marine sanctuary when it is righted, officials said Saturday.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the grounding, environmental and salvage experts gave an update on the massive removal project under way, stressing the size of the ship — 112,000 tons — its precarious perch on the rocks off the port of Giglio island, and the environmental concerns at play.

The pristine waters surrounding Giglio are part of a protected marine sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises, and whales and are a favorite for scuba divers. Already, tourism was off 28 percent last year, thanks in part to the eyesore in Giglio’s port.


Franco Gabriele, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, told reporters that officials are now looking at September as the probable date for removal, taking into account conservative estimates for poor weather and rough seas. Originally, officials had said they hoped to have it removed in early 2013.

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In addition, Gabriele and Costa officials said the cost might now reach $530 million, up from the $400 million originally estimated.

The Concordia slammed into a reef off Giglio on Jan. 13, 2012, after the captain took it off course in a stunt to bring it closer to the island. As it took on water through the 230-foot gash in its hull, the Concordia rolled onto its side and came to rest on the rocks off Giglio’s port. Thirty-two people were killed.

The captain, Francesco Schettino, remains under house arrest, accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and leaving the ship before all passengers were evacuated. He has not been charged. Schettino maintains he saved lives by bringing the ship closer to shore and says the reef wasn’t on his nautical charts.

Salvage crews successfully removed some 2,100 tons of fuel last year from the ship’s tanks without any major spill. But Maria Sargentini, president of the environmental oversight group for the Concordia, said sewage, remaining fuel, and tons of rotten food are inside.


The complicated removal plan involves constructing an underwater platform and attaching empty cisterns on the exposed side of the ship. The cisterns will be filled with water, and cranes attached to the platform will be used to rotate the ship and pull it upright.

Once upright, the ship will have cisterns attached to the other side. All the cisterns will be emptied of water and filled with air to help float the ship and free it from the seabed. Once it’s properly afloat, it can then be towed to a nearby seaport for demolition.

On Sunday, relatives of the dead and survivors are expected in Giglio for a daylong commemoration to honor the 32 victims, those who recovered their bodies and rescued survivors, and residents who opened their doors to the 4,200 passengers and crew.

‘‘Just seeing this boat has a powerful effect on me,’’ said Albert Karianis, a 60-year-old cleaner from Marseille, France, a survivor who returned Saturday to the island for the first time. ‘‘I think about it every day, and I have nightmares,’’ he said.

While groups of survivors were flocking to the island — some on specially organized ferries — others received a letter from Costa urging them to stay away, saying there wasn’t room on Giglio and that the commemoration was primarily aimed at the families of those who died.


They speculated that Costa simply didn’t want disgruntled passengers speaking to the news media.