- By Region
The contract for one of the most challenging and costly salvage operations ever mounted is expected to be awarded this weekend as Italian officials and insurance companies select the winner of a tender to recover the Costa Concordia cruise liner, which sank off Tuscany in January.
Italian admirals and government officials met in London on Thursday with London Offshore Consultants (LOC) to consider a bid by Florida-based Titan Salvage together with Italy’s Micoperi, industry sources said. They expected a formal statement on Friday awarding the contract to the US-Italian joint venture.
LOC, appointed as consultants in the tender process, did not respond to requests for comment. Costa Cruises, the Italian operator of the ship and a subsidiary of Carnival Corp, said the winner of the salvage contract would be announced “shortly”, but it had not fixed a date. It had previously said it expected to make a decision in late March.
The US-Italian joint venture is competing against Smit, the salvage unit of Boskalis, the Dutch maritime services company, in partnership with Italy’s Neri. The two groups were shortlisted out of six companies that submitted bids.
Both proposals involve floating the wreck and towing it away, rather than cutting it up where it rests, half-submerged, in a marine sanctuary off the island of Giglio. The ship, with some 4,200 passengers and crew, went down on January 13 with the loss of 32 lives after it hit shoals close to the island. Its captain is under arrest.
Industry sources expect the operation to cost from €250m-€280m and that it could take a year.
Costa Cruises said it would make a joint decision on the salvage contract with its insurers, with the approval of the Italian authorities.
Having declared to insurers a total loss of the ship, Costa Cruises said it no longer owned the Concordia but maintained “judicial custody”.
A 13-deck resort as long as three football pitches and with a gross tonnage of 114,000 tonnes – more than twice that of the Titanic – the Concordia’s sheer size presents problems. It rests precariously on its side on two rocky pinnacles, close to deeper waters. Italian authorities stress their main concern is the local environment and Giglio’s tourism-based economy.
The Titan Salvage-Micoperi proposal involves constructing an underwater platform which would support the wreck after it is rotated and partially raised from the seabed using tanks. Once the hull is repaired it would be floated.
Posidonia, a protected species of seagrass, would be removed from the salvage site and replanted in its original place once the platform pylons are removed after the operation. A protective casing around drilling for the pylons would shield seafans and sponges.
“This is an operation without precedent. You have to imagine a big fat whale the size of a block of flats lying on its side, accidentally supported by two rocks,” Peter Berdowski, chief executive of Boskalis, told reporters last month. Smit, the subsidiary, and Neri have emptied the Costa Concordia of its fuel and are clearing up debris from the seabed.