Shipwrecked Concordia floated for journey to scrapheap

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by JOHN BACON

USA TODAY

Posted on July 14, 2014 at 9:45 AM

Updated Monday, Jul 14 at 3:50 PM

The cruise liner that capsized off the Italian coast in January 2012, killing 32 people, was refloated Monday and will be towed to Genoa and dismantled.

Salvage master Nick Sloan told la Repubblica that officials were "extremely pleased" when flotation tanks attached to the Costa Concordia were able to raise the 100,000-ton vessel.

The Costa Concordia was sailing in the Tyrrhenian Sea with more than 4,200 passengers and crew when it struck rocks off the Italian island of Giglio, ripping a 160-foot gash in the Concordia's hull. The ship began to list and soon lost power when the engine room flooded.

Despite the growing disaster, the order to abandon ship was not issued for more than an hour. The evacuation took more than six hours, and the body of one presumed victim, Indian waiter Russel Rebello, was never found.

Removal of the Concordia from the reef and moving it to Genoa, where it will be scrapped, will cost $2 billion, Costa Crociere CEO Michael Tamm said. The ship, which first sailed in 2005, cost about $570 million.

The 150-mile tow to Genoa is expected to take about five days.

"The operation began well, but it will be completed only when we have finished the transport," Italian Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti said.

The cruise industry adopted 10 safety policies in the wake of the tragedy, policies designed to go beyond what governments required, according to Cruise Lines International Association, a major industry group.

The extra measures included carrying more life jackets than passengers, stowing life jackets where they are easier to find and improving lifeboat training drills.

Budd Darr, senior vice president for technical and regulatory affairs at the association, which represents 95% of cruise traffic worldwide, told U.S. safety regulators in March that the industry couldn't wait for formal government investigations to make changes.

"It's not just a priority," Darr told the National Transportation Safety Board of cruise safety. "It's fundamental to what we do in operating our ships. They must be safe. They must be secure. People know that they have to be able to have a safe and secure vacation experience to relax."

Concordia's Italian captain, Francesco Schettino, is being tried in Tuscany on charges of manslaughter, causing the shipwreck and abandoning ship before all were evacuated. He claims he is innocent -- and that his decision saved hundreds of lives.

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