Costa Concordia Raised Off Rocks After 19-Hour Salvage Operation

The wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship was successfully righted today after an unprecedented 19-hour operation off the Italian island of Giglio, where the cruise liner has been lying on its side since it capsized 20 months ago, killing 32 passengers.

The operation, known as parbuckling or vertical rotation “is concluded,” Italy’s civil protection agency chief Franco Gabrielli announced at a televised press briefing shortly after 4 a.m. local time. “Today we have reached a turning point to move the ship away from Giglio’s waters.”

The rotation of the 952-foot (290-meter) ship, which began yesterday at about 9 a.m. local time, was organized by Florida-based Titan Salvage and Italy’s Micoperi and cost about 600 million euros ($801 million), according to Carnival Corp’s Costa Crociere SpA Italian unit, which owns the ship. The 114,500-ton ship will now rest on underwater platforms for months before being towed to a port to be broken up.

The Concordia, with 4,200 passengers and crew, rammed into rocks and partially sank off the Tuscan coast on Jan. 13, 2012. Its captain, Francesco Schettino, is the only defendant in a criminal trial after being indicted earlier this year on charges including manslaughter and abandoning the ship while many passengers were still on board. Schettino, who has always denied any wrongdoing, saying his actions saved lives, faces as many as 20 years in jail if convicted, according to prosecutor Francesco Verusio.

Ship Scrapping

Prime Minister Enrico Letta said he called Gabrielli to congratulate him for the operation. “I told him that those that are working there are a source of pride for Italy,” Letta said in a Twitter post.

The Concordia’s final destination still has to be decided after a number of Italian ports expressed interest in scrapping the wrecked ship. The righting of the cruise liner revealed submerged parts of the ship that were never exposed and might provide clues on the accident and on the location of the two remaining bodies that have never been found.

The side of the ship previously submerged is not as damaged as expected, Gabrielli said at a second press conference today. The search for the two remaining bodies is complicated and remains a priority, Gabrielli said.

Costa Crociere, which agreed in April to pay a 1 million-euro fine for violations of the Italian administrative responsibility law, has settled claims with more than 80 percent of passengers as of May 14. Carnival has said that “substantially all” of the ship removal costs and the costs of these and any future claims will be covered by its insurance.

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