North West Wales

Costa Concordia: Tug firm's role in salvage operation

An Anglesey company played a key role in the salvage operation of the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia.

A tug belonging to Holyhead Towing helped pull the ship upright in a 19-hour operation.

The luxury vessel had been stuck off Italy's Tuscany coast since running aground in January last year killing 32 people.

The £500m salvage operation was described as one of the largest and most daunting ever undertaken.

Holyhead Towing's tug Afon Cefni was part of the operation to right the vessel and will continue to be used over the months ahead.

But it was all in a day's work for the managing director Mark Meade whose fleet of boats operate in more than a dozen countries.

Joint enterprises

"We've been working there for a few months," he said.

"We knew (salvage master) Nick Sloane and we've done that type of job before.

"It's common enough for us," he said.

The company is the second largest employer on Anglesey with up to 500 workers worldwide. It operates 55 boats from Flintshire to the Falklands.

"We've operations in the Gulf, west Africa and all over Europe," added Mr Meade.

"We have joint enterprises in the south of France and Australia and operate a ferry between the Falkland Islands. We also operate the Airbus barge taking wings from Broughton to the port of Mostyn."

Bad weather

The company also has an office in Kazakhstan where their boats work in one of the biggest oil fields in the world.

A sister company has also gone into business making specialised boats for workers and equipment in the wind turbine industry.

Mr Meade told BBC Radio Wales what the 22-metre long Afon Cefni had been doing in Italy.

"We kind of like to think of her as the wheelbarrow of the job," Mr Meade said.

"She does all the push me-pull you with the barges and helping them in and out of position and into the port if bad weather's coming.

'Quite a character'

"She carries bits and pieces out for the job and she offers a bit of diving support when they need it in certain locations, so a bit of everything really. (She's) just a very flexible little boat."

It is a long way from the company started by Mr Meade's father John more than 50 years ago.

"He started the business in 1961 hiring rowing boats off a beach then he took over the Newry boatyard," added Mark who took over running the company 21 years ago.

"My father was quite a character and entrepreneurial. He focused the business on Holyhead and was very passionate about the area, but he would have enjoyed the expansion.

"We worked on the Oresund Bridge which links Denmark and Sweden.

"When we were towing the last piece into place someone said to me 'You are the wheelbarrow of the project - a small but indispensable element'. It's the way I like to think we are".