Righting Concordia: Colossal Shipwreck Ready for Salvage

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It isn't so unusual that Sloane refers to the ship as a "she." But it sounds like bitter tenderness when he says, for example, that she absolutely has to be righted before winter sets in, because she's suffering, lying there like that, sinking further and further down the slope.

Since she ran aground, the ship has moved about three meters, partly due to slippage, partly from sinking deeper into the rock. The vessel's starboard wall is becoming more and more deformed, developing a negative imprint of the reef, thereby weakening the superstructure further.

'We Only Have One Shot'

Laser measurement devices from Florence University are monitoring the ship around the clock, recording her every movement. Although she can no longer slip away because of the chains anchored to her hull, Sloane says the ship is already extremely weak. He speaks less and less about verification and statistical calculations. He simply says, "We only have one shot." In other words, the parbuckling maneuver has to work the first time. "She wouldn't support these forces twice," he explains.

"When she's upright, she will be fine," Sloane says in all seriousness, as if she will feel better. After all, the greatest technical hurdle of the entire maneuver will have been overcome.

The next steps are supposedly easier to calculate. Flotation tanks would be fixed to the starboard side. These would not be welded to the ship, but would rather lift her up via chains slung underneath the hull.

Sloane mentions a new timetable, one he is sure is definite: By next March, at the very latest, all the floatation tanks should be in place. All the water will have been pumped out of the containers by the end of May, slowly lifting a grotesque combination of wreck and steel lifejacket like a floating dock. The Costa Concordia will then be 18 meters off the seabed, more than double her original draught, enabling her to be safely towed away from Giglio for good at a pedestrian pace of no more than 2 knots. "If she survives the parbuckling, she'll be gone next summer," Sloane predicts.

And if not? If she breaks apart? Is there a plan B?

Sloane glances meditatively across the hotel terrace toward the offshore construction site. Eventually he says, "No, no, she … She'll survive."

Translated from the German by Jan Liebelt

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