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Year after wreck, salvage of Costa Concordia falls behind schedule

January 12, 2013|By Tom Kington | This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
  • The Costa Concordia on Italy's Giglio island on Saturday.
The Costa Concordia on Italy's Giglio island on Saturday. (Maurizio Brambatti / European…)

ROME -- A year after the Costa Concordia cruise ship sank in Italy, drowning 32 passengers and crew, the ship’s owner acknowledged Saturday that efforts to salvage the wreck were behind schedule, even as survivors of the disaster expressed anger at being told to keep away from anniversary ceremonies.

Executives from Costa Crociere, the Italian firm that operated the Costa Concordia, said that its attempt to right the half-submerged ship onto an undersea platform and float it off for breaking up has been slowed by the difficulty of drilling into the soft sand and tough granite below the ship. The 1,000-foot-long-vessel slammed into rocks on the Tuscan island of Giglio and partially sank Jan. 13, 2012.

The tow-off date for what has become one of the world’s biggest-ever salvage projects has been pushed back from this spring to September, Costa Crociere said, with the rotating of the vessel now due in July. The price tag for the work has risen from $300 million to $400 million.

More than 400 people, including 110 divers, are working on the wreck, which sits on its side in shallow water off Giglio. The salvage effort requires 30,000 tons of steel, three times the amount used to build the Eiffel Tower.

Meanwhile, as Giglio prepared for a religious service Sunday to mark the anniversary, including the release of 32 airborne lanterns to mourn the dead, Costa Crociere has told survivors among the 4,200 passengers and crew to avoid the island out of respect for those who died. The company says that there would not be enough space on the island to accommodate all the survivors of the wreck.

"This to our family has not settled well at all," passenger Georgia Ananias of Downey told the Associated Press. "We're trying to deal with this day, and to get something as insulting as this that there's no room for you there?"

Prosecutors are seeking a 20-year prison sentence for the vessel’s captain, Francesco Schettino, who steered the ship into rocks, tearing a massive gash in the hull, while attempting a "sail-past" at Giglio. In a chaotic evacuation, passengers scrambled for lifeboats as the vessel flooded before coming to rest on rocks yards from the shore.

While some passengers have accepted a compensation offer of about $14,600, others are suing for a bigger payout, faulting management for allowing Schettino to deviate from his official route as well as providing insufficient staff emergency training, which meant passengers received conflicting advice on how to abandon ship.

But Costa Crociere’s U.S. parent Carnival Corp. has submitted documents to a California court claiming one of the reasons the case should be dismissed is because the passengers themselves "acted negligently or carelessly and were the sole or contributory cause of the alleged injuries or damages."

[For the record, 1:15 p.m. Jan. 12: An earlier version of this post stated that the salvage effort requires 3,000 tons of steel. It requires 30,000 tons.]

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