Costa Concordia captain heads to court

This past January, the cruise ship Costa Concordia crashed into rocks off the coast of Italy, killing 30 people and forcing 4,200 to abandon ship. The final salvage operations begin later this week as the captain heads to court, charged with manslaughter.

The captain who turned the Costa Concordia into a wreck is also suing the owners for wrongful dismissal.

Given that the salvage operation will cost $300 million, he's unlikely to be getting any back pay.

By the end of the coming week there will be more than 450 workers at the site, including 100 divers.

Anchor points are being drilled into the sea bed to hold the enormous chains that will be used to roll the ship off the rocks where she is lodged. Buoyancy tanks 11 stories high will be welded onto the sides.

The rock that was stuck in the hull when the ship hit a reef has been removed.

"In total there's about 95 tons of rock that we took out and we took it out in three sections so it's quite a large rock," said Nicolas Sloane, senior salvage master with Titan Salvage.

The salvage men describe the effort as "off the scale" of anything ever attempted before.

"It's a challenge, and it is, yeah, it's the high point of all of our lives I think. There'll be nothing like it afterwards, and there's been nothing quite like it before," said Guy wood, assistant salvage master.

Remarkably, there has been no pollution of the pristine environment of the marine reserve around Giglio Island.

Divers have even transplanted rare and protected giant clams to a site well away from the salvage operation.

Pulling the liner off the rocks and towing her away is scheduled to take 260 working days. But the work depends on the weather, and it's not always pretty. The seas around Giglio can turn violent in the winter.

Everything that could break loose in bad weather has been cut away -- luxury transcended by the brute force required to prepare the Costa Concordia on her final cruise to the scrap yard.

  • Allen Pizzey

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