Somewhat surprisingly, Titan Salvage of the United States has been chosen to raise and remove the wreck of Costa Concordia from the rocks off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio off the coast of Italy. It had been thought that Rotterdam’s Smit, which won the original contact to remove oil and other hazardous materials, would have the edge but Titan has proven that it can find ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions to difficult salvage jobs.

Titan will team up with Italy’s Micoperi, which has considerable offshore construction and engineering experience – not to mention heavy lifting equipment – to remove the capsized ship in one piece in what is described as the largest maritime salvage operation ever undertaken. Once off the rocks and afloat, the hull will be towed to an Italian port for survey to determine whether it will be scrapped or rebuilt.

Salvage crews and equipment have formed at Civitavecchia, about 45 miles south-east of Giglio, with the entire salvage operation expected to take about a year. ‘This is the largest refloat in history,’ said Captain Richard Habib, head of Titan Salvage. ‘It’s not impossible but it is unprecedented. The technique is standard, but the next largest vessel with which we have attempted this type of salvage was a 35,000-tonne ship in Alaska.’.

A 40m square undersea platform is to be built on the seaward side of the ship, and empty metal boxes will then be soldered to the ripped, exposed port side. Two cranes will be used to roll the vessel into an upright position on the platform. As the metal boxes tilt into the water, water will be pumped into them to help the ship’s movement.

Meanwhile, 64 per cent of the passengers who escaped the ship have accepted compensation of between €10,000 and €17,000 (£13,700). Six per cent have instead filed lawsuits. Captain Schettino is under house arrest, accused of causing the collision and multiple manslaughter, and of leaving the ship before the passengers.

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