Update 1: And the Tow Begins
The departure of Costa Concordia has begun and the wreck is being towed to Genoa at two knots. The four day journey began at around 11 a.m. this morning, the salvage team informed.
Preliminary activities for Costa Concordia’s departure maneuvers began at 6 am, this morning.
The arrival in Genoa is planned at the moment between Saturday July 26th and Sunday July 27th.
Crowley Maritime Corporation subsidiary TITAN Salvage and Italian partner Micoperi have confirmed that 10 days after the intricate refloating phase of the Costa Concordia wreck removal began, the ship is ready to tow.
A convoy of 14 vessels, led by the tugboat Blizzard, is scheduled to begin towing the Concordia at daybreak to a port near Genoa, where it will be broken up for scrap, completing the largest maritime salvage operation in history.
Since the Concordia’s safe refloating, she has been, and will continue to be, under the constant power of a team of tugs keeping a series of lines tight to ensure control in her upright position.
Additionally, as reassured by the salvage team, divers and remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) operations have continued to monitor sponsons, cables and chains under the hull, and tow wires while onboard, and shoreside personnel constantly review and watch systems to ensure continued integrity of the operation.
“This operation has been and continues to be reflective of the team’s desire to accomplish the mission with safety, ingenuity and detail,” said Chris Peterson, TITAN Salvage vice president.
Among those keeping a close eye on the towing operation will be Greenpeace Italy and the Italian environmental group Legambiente, who will monitor for pollution and spills, especially in the Pelagos sanctuary, “which protects whales and other marine life in the area,” according to Greenpeace Italy.
“We have repeatedly asked the government to consider alternative, nearer ports, and to provide details on the safety measures being taken. But Special Commissary Franco Gabrielli, responsible for the operation, never agreed to meet us, and our requests for information have gone unmet,” Giorgia Monti an Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace Italy said.
As explained, the wreck still contains around 263,000 cubic metres of polluted water, along with hydrocarbons (mainly fuel), heavy metals and organic material.
“As Costa Concordia will pass through Europe’s biggest marine protected area, the Pelagos Sanctuary, there is a considerable risk that part of these dangerous substances will leak into the sea during the transfer.
The worst-case scenario is that the wreck could break apart and sink. Environmental impacts could be significant, as the wreck will transit a very sensitive area rich in marine biodiversity and specifically important for cetaceans.
We are also concerned that the hull of the damaged ship may not withstand the stress of the journey, potentially rupturing and spilling a noxious brew of heavy metals, oils, plastics, sewage, and chemicals into the sea,” Monti added.
“We can only hope that the transit proceeds without incident. But we wish the government were doing more to ensure that,” Giorgia Monti concluded.
World Maritime News Staff, July 23, 2014