Six months after Costa Concordia disaster, ship remains offshore

Tourists relax on rocks in front of the Costa Concordia wreckage on the Giglio Island, Italy, July 12, 2012.
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

(CBS News) GIGLIO, Italy - Six months ago today, we all learned the name Costa Concordia. The cruise ship ran aground and capsized off the Italian island of Giglio. Dozens of people on board were killed.

Half a year has passed, the salvage effort is off to a slow start.

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At 9:42 a.m. exactly on Friday, a salute from the boats of Giglio - a symbolic horn blowing - marked the moment six months ago that Costa Concordia hit the rocks. On land in the island's church, family and friends remembered the victims of one of the most dramatic maritime disasters in modern history.

On January 13, as more than 4,000 passengers and crew struggled to board lifeboats on the sinking Concordia, Captain Francesco Schettino abandoned both them and the ship. Thirty-two people died in the chaos. For locals in Giglio who tried to help, there's no forgetting that night.

Six months later, the Concordia itself still looms just offshore, and it's Nick Sloane's job to remove it. He heads up the most complex salvage operation in the world. Little remains on the decks except a jumble of lounge chairs by the empty swimming pools. But, on the underside, a huge chunk of rock that ripped open the hull is clearly visible.

"It's a big rock between 70 and 80 tons so we're going to cut it into three pieces to take it out of there. The first piece did come out this afternoon," Sloane told CBS News.

When it's completely removed, salvage crews will build a platform under the ship, and cranes will pull her upright. Then air pumped into massive steel containers welded to either side will -- if the computer models are correct -- re-float the wreck, which Italian investigators are desperate to have a look at. It's still a crime scene.

"So everything we do has to be approved, and they monitor very closely what we say we're going to do that we actually do it," Sloane said.

Everything on board is potential evidence in multiple lawsuits, starting with the criminal cases against the captain, who is already charged with manslaughter.

Just this week, Schettino gave the first interview since his arrest. He offered a very unconvincing apology according to some Italians, which makes him the most reviled man in this country.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."