It's been two-and-a-half years since the Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground near the island of Giglio off the coast of Italy. But this week, after $1 billion in salvage costs, the vessel has been refloated so it can begin its final journey to the port of Genoa where it will be scrapped.
In recent months, the 15,000-ton vessel has been fitted with 30 sponsons — huge water-filled containers that stabilize the ship. Engineers drained the water from the sponsons and filled them with air until they become floats, the New York Times reported.
The sponsons were installed by a group of international companies, including Conquest Offshore who provided a vessel with a 1,400-ton full revolving crane that could work in water as shallow as 3.5m, according to the company.
Now the Costa Concordia is floating again, it has been shifted about 100 feet away from Giglio's shore. This means that additional sponsons can be added on the starboard side in positions that were previously inaccessible due to proximity with the rocky seabed, according the Telegraph.
Four tugs will escort the Costa Concordia nearly 200 nautical miles to Genoa where it will be dismantled and the metal sold for scrap to defray some of the salvage costs. Costa Crociere, the company that owns the Costa Concordia, also wants to recycle intact parts of the ship such as engine components and plumbing structures for use in its other cruise ships, according to CNN.
The Costa Concordia is scheduled to depart Giglio on its final voyage on July 21, according to Reuters. CNN estimates that the vessel can be towed at a maximum speed of two knots and it will take about five days to tow the ship to Genoa.
NPR estimates the total salvage operation will ultimately cost more than $2 billion. And Reuters reported that the chief executive of Costa Crociere predicts that paying for the disaster, including breaking up the vessel and repairing damage to Giglio, is likely to cost his company more than 1.5 billion euros (US $2.04 billion).
When the Costa Concordia wrecked in 2012, 4,000 people were aboard and 32 people were killed. The cruise ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, has been charged with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. While the end is in sight for salvage operations, the legal proceedings and healing process from the accident for victims and their families is likely far from over.