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Salvage crews completed raising the wreck of the Costa Concordia in the early hours of Tuesday morning after a 19-hour-long operation on the Italian island of Giglio where the huge cruise liner capsized in January last year.
One of the most complex and expensive maritime salvage operations ever attempted saw the 114,500-ton ship pulled upright by a series of huge jacks and cables and set on artificial platforms drilled into the rocky sea bed.
The operation was completed at around 4 a.m. (0200 GMT) without any significant problems.
“The ship has been settled onto its platforms,” Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy’s Civil Protection Authority, told reporters and a group of cheering residents who waited up into the early hours of the morning to hear the news.
“We have accomplished an important step towards removing the ship from the island,” he said.
The Concordia, a 290-metre-long (950-foot-long) liner carrying more than 4,000 passengers and crew, capsized and sank with the loss of 32 lives on Jan. 13, 2012 after it struck rocks outside Giglio, where it has lain ever since, half-submerged on a rock shelf.
The vessel bore the marks of its long period on the rocks, with brown mud stains scarring the hull and clear signs of deformation to the structure.
After a salvage operation estimated to have cost more than 600 million euros ($801.15 million), the vast hulk will remain in place for some months more while it is stabilised and refloated before being towed away to be broken up for scrap.
The so-called “parbuckling” operation, in which the giant hulk was painstakingly rotated upright took longer than the 10-12 hours initially estimated but engineers said the project had gone exceptionally smoothly.
“The rotation happened the way we thought it would happen and the way we hoped it would happen,” said Franco Porcellacchia, leader of Costa Cruise’s technical team. “It was a perfect operation, I would say.”
In contrast to the accident, a catalogue of mishap and misjudgement over which the Concordia’s captain Francesco Schettino faces multiple charges, the salvage operation has so far been a tightly coordinated engineering feat.
It is expected to be the most expensive maritime wreck recovery ever, accounting for more than half of an overall insurance loss of more than $1.1 billion.