SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

July 16, 2013

Crews rush to move ship

GIGLIO, Italy — Salvage crews are working against time to remove the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship, which is slowly being crushed under its own weight on its perch of granite seabed off the Tuscan island of Giglio. Officials said yesterday that if this attempt fails, there won’t be a second chance.

Nick Sloane, the leader of the salvage operation, said the Concordia has compressed some 10 feet since it came to rest on its side on the rocky perch Jan. 13, 2012, after ramming a jagged reef when it skirted too close to the island during a publicity stunt allegedly ordered by the captain; 32 people were killed.

Sloane, an engineer for U.S.-owned company Titan Salvage, said experts would have one chance to pull the ship upright and float it away to the mainland for demolition. The attempt will probably take place in mid-September. “We cannot put it back” down and start over, said Sloane.

Sloane spoke aboard a work boat as he accompanied journalists for a close-hand look of the wreckage on the eve of the trial of Capt. Francesco Schettino, who is charged with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all passengers had been evacuated.

The trial, which was supposed to get underway July 9, was postponed until tomorrow due to a lawyers’ strike. The Italian captain denies wrongdoing and claims his skillful guiding of the ship after the collision helped save countless lives.

The timetable to remove the Concordia has also been set back. The original plan envisioned removal before start of this summer, but bad weather undermined those plans.

“We lost two months to weather,” said salvage master Sloane, explaining that the season’s harsh sea conditions made it risky for diving teams to work, including installing bags that are filled with cement to provide a more stable base when the flat-keeled ship is pulled upright.

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