Costa Concordia: Biggest Scrap Salvage Operation Ever

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Costa Concordia salvage: 30,000 tons of steel for a hulk of scrap metal.

The New York Times, along with many other publications, has been running the story of Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia’s salvage off the Tuscan coast this week. Dramatic pictures – best watched in time-lapse replay – show the glacial righting of the stricken vessel that ran aground on the night of January 13th, 2012.

Apparently, the Italians felt the accident was a cause for national shame when in reality the only shame should have been allotted to the captain who fled the vessel before his passengers and, by all accounts (court case pending this fall), caused the accident by changing course to sail the vessel too close to his home town.

As a result, the vessel hit rocks that resulted in a 70-meter (230-foot) gash in the hull and the loss of 32 passengers and crew.

Preparations for the monumental salvage operation took 14 months, but just 19 hours after starting, the vessel is now upright and resting on a false seabed made of a steel frame and 16,000 metric tons of concrete-filled sandbags, before buoyancy tanks on the side are emptied of sea water and the vessel is floated off for scrapping. Salvage of ships is not normally a topic for MetalMiner, but the sheer scale of this operation, said to be the world’s largest, deserves a closer look.

Early Life of the Costa Concordia

The Costa Concordia was built just eight years ago in Italy and launched in 2006. Ominously, the champagne bottle did not break on her bow, but the 114,137-ton vessel had a fairly quiet life before the fateful night last year. At a cost of some $800 million, the salvage dwarfs the original construction cost of $570 million and the amount of steel consumed in the salvage has no doubt been the source of much-needed business for Italian steel mills.

Concordia Salvage Operation

An FT article makes fascinating reading, stating that 30,000 tons of steel have been used in the operation – more than four times the weight in the Eiffel Tower. Twenty-one pillars over 5 feet in diameter were driven 30 feet into the granite seabed to support the righted ship and brace the 56 chains (each 190 feet long and weighing 26 tons) used to pull the vessel slowly upright through 65 degrees.

Two blister tanks installed at the bow of the wreck provided buoyancy, measuring 75 feet long and 66 feet high – that structure alone weighed 1,700 metric tons. Meanwhile, a flotilla of 22 vessels and eight barges, plus more than 500 people of 26 nationalities worked on the joint US-Italian led project.

Fortunately, much of the diesel fuel had been pumped off months ago, but the stores still held a considerable quantity of perishable goods and liquids that would have caused environmental problems if the vessel was left indefinitely or if it had broken up on the reef.

The scrap value will be a fraction of the salvage costs to date and in practice may not even cover the cost of breaking the vessel up, but at least the eyesore on the Tuscan coast will soon be gone and the Italians can be proud of an immensely difficult salvage job well done.

Read more from Stuart Burns.

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