Capsized Italian cruise ship that claimed 32 lives brought to port for scrap
The doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship arrived Sunday at its final resting place in Genoa where it is due to be scrapped, two and a half years after it capsized in a tragedy that claimed the lives of 32 passengers.
The hulking Costa Concordia – about twice the size of the Titanic – was towed into the northern Italian port city after a four-day, 280-kilometre (175-mile) journey from the site where it ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio.
Built in 2005 in the Sestri Ponente Finantieri yard in Genoa, the Concordia was the largest Italian cruise ship in history at the time of its launch.
“We can finally breathe a sigh of relief,” Italy’s environment minister, Gian Luca Galletti, told journalists.
Fears that the damaged hull would break apart under the strain, spilling toxic waste into Europe’s biggest marine sanctuary, proved unfounded, with dolphins joining the convoy of environmental experts in welcoming the ship into Genoa.
The luxury cruiseliner arrived overnight and weighed anchor around two nautical miles off shore, where engineers attached it to a series of tugboats which manoeuvred it into Genoa’s Voltri port around 10am (GMT).
Civil protection agency chief Franco Gabrielli told journalists that a high wind was slowing the delicate operation and the ship was not expected to be secured until around 2pm.
Once it is fastened in place, interior furnishings and fittings will be stripped from the ship to make it light enough to tow into the scrapping area, where it will be divided into three parts for dismantling.
The salvage operation to recover the Concordia was the biggest ever attempted and is expected to cost in the region of €1.5 billion ($2 billion).
The remains of the 114,500-tonne Concordia will not simply be thrown away, with more than 80 percent of it expected to be recycled or reused. Between 40,000 and 50,000 tonnes of steel will be melted down and reused in the construction industry, while undamaged copper wiring, plumbing, plastics, machinery and furniture will recovered and sold.
Crowds of curious locals gathered near the port on the outskirts of Genoa at first light, eager to see the remains of the battered ship, which crashed into rocks off Giglio island in January 2012 with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board.
Some might have thought the ship was unlucky from the start.
At a floating ceremony in 2006 attended by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone – Pope Benedict XVI’s No. 2 – the bottle of champagne failed to smash when it was swung against the hull to “christen” the ship, a bad omen according to seagoing lore.
Images of the vast vessel toppled on its side off Giglio in January 2012 went viral around the world, and its captain Francesco Schettino was dubbed Italy’s “most hated man” by local media after he escaped early on in a lifeboat while terrified passengers threw themselves into the icy sea.
Schettino is currently on trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning the vessel before all passengers had evacuated.
Personal belongings recovered on the lower decks will be returned to owners while items such as the ship’s piano – which was being played as the ship hit the rocks – may end up in a museum.
One of the first tasks will be to search for the body of one of the victims, Indian waiter Russel Rebello, whose remains were never found and may have been trapped in a part of the vessel previously inaccessible to salvage crew.