Salvaging the Costa Concordia

The Costa Concordia cruise liner, which lay partially submerged off the Italian island of Giglio for more than two years, is now being gradually dismantled after one of the biggest salvage operations in maritime history.

The 114,000 tonne ship was towed the final 200 miles to the port of Genoa for scrapping in July - after an operation to refloat it, which began in April 2013.

Graphic: Costa Concordia July 2014

The ship had been resting on five huge metal platforms, constructed and lowered to the sea bed, since being rolled upright in September 2013.

The last phase of the operation involved pumping air into massive steel boxes known as caissons, attached to both sides of the hull.

This refloated the damaged ship some two metres off the sea bed. It was then painstakingly shifted into deeper water and floated higher, in an operation expected which took several days.

The final journey back to its home port of Genoa took four days.

The cost of the salvage operation was estimated at some $1.2bn (£0.7bn), although cruise line Costa Crociere estimated that it had contributed some 765 million euros ($1,040m, £600m) to the Italian economy.

Thirty-two people died in the accident, which occurred after Captain Francisco Schettino allegedly steered the ship too close to shore, causing it to hit rocks and partially capsize.

A body found in the wreck in November 2014 were later confirmed to be Indian waiter Russel Rebello, the last person to remain unaccounted for.

The process of scrapping the ship is expected to take up to two years.

It was estimated the first four months would be spent stripping the ship of all its fittings and other non-metal items - before the ship was finally dismantled and the steel recycled.

Delicate parbuckling

In September 2013 the Costa Concordia was hauled upright in the most delicate phase of the recovery operation.

A process called "parbuckling" used pulling cables and the weight of water contained in caissons attached to the ship's exposed port side (left) flank to roll it upright.

Time-lapse footage shows the overnight operation to right the ship.

Pulling jacks applying some 6,000 tonnes of force were then used to dislodge the vessel from the rocky sea bed.

Once it had rolled to a 25 degree angle, the ship then continued to rotate under its own weight and the weight of water in the caissons.

Once upright, the scale of damage to the submerged starboard (right) side - ground into a reef and crushed under the weight of the hull - became clear.

Damaged side of the Costa Concordia Much of the ship's superstructure was crushed under its own bulk.

After parbuckling, work continued with the addition of further caissons on the starboard side to stabilise the wreck and prepare it for refloating and removal.

The project faced many delays due to bad weather.

During earlier stages, there were fears that the wreck could slide into deeper water and sink completely so heavy steel anchor cables were added to stabilise it.

The vessel still contained tonnes of rotting food, furniture, bedding and passengers' belongings, and environmental contamination was a constant risk.

Speaking at the start of salvage work in 2012, one of the project's directors, Franco Porcellacchia, told the BBC: "This is a very delicate and unusual operation. We have no reference here".

"So far we have recorded no pollution and the situation is being constantly monitored by the authorities."

"Dismantling it is another ball game".

The Costa Concordia was only hours into a cruise of the Mediterranean on Friday 13 January 2012 when disaster struck just off Giglio island.


Key dates


  • 13 Jan: Costa Concordia runs aground
  • 31 Jan: Search for bodies abandoned
  • 22 March: Five more bodies found in wreck
  • 24 March: Fuel removal work completed
  • 21 April: Salvage contract awarded to firms Titan Salvage and Micoperi
  • 15 Oct: Capt Schettino appears at court inquiry


  • 3 Apr: Largest support platform in position
  • 9 July: Captain Schettino goes on trial
  • 20 July: Five senior crew members convicted of manslaughter
  • 17 Sept: Ship rolled upright in 'parbuckling' operation


  • 14 July: Refloating operation begins
  • 27 July: Arrives in Genoa for scrapping

Special report: Costa Concordia disaster


The huge vessel - which had more than 4,000 passenger and crew onboard - then lost power, drifted and partially capsized.

The evacuation was slow and chaotic, with conflicting information passed between the captain, the ship's crew and the coastguard authorities.

Capt Schettino was charged with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. His trial began in July 2013, and he could face up to 26 years in prison if found guilty. He denies all the charges.

Five other senior crew members, convicted of manslaughter in 2013, were allowed to enter plea bargains in exchange for lenient sentences. None of them has served time in jail.

There have been appeals during the captain's case for senior executives of Costa Crociere to be made to pay damages.

A lawyer representing some passengers who were on the ship said some responsibility for the 32 deaths lay with the company, because of technical problems after the ship hit the rocks and language difficulties among the crew.

Video from Titan Salvage and Micoperi describes the operation as "the largest and most complex recovery ever attempted".

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Europe stories


Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.