In January of 2012 the Master of the Costa Concordia cruise ship brought his ship dangerously close to submerged granite shelves near the Italian island of Giglio which is adjacent to a marine sanctuary in the Mediterranean Sea.
The small town and natural areas in the nearby national parks draw plenty of tourists to the area. Many more tourists see the charming island as their cruise ships pass near the coast. Ships regularly pass the island much closer than marked traffic lanes allow to give passengers good photo opportunities.
There are maritime traffic lanes, and the ship was recently built so it had state of the art navigation and hazard detection. There was no fault in the positioning equipment that night it was human error.
A pass was slightly too close and the side of the ship was torn open. As the vessel rolled onto her side the ship was grounded intentionally near the shore of Giglio.
Passenger evacuation was poorly handled by a lackluster Master and poorly trained crew. Thirty two people died.One Year Later
The first anniversary of the wreck still finds her in the same position. Now surrounded by crane barges, drill rigs, boom vessels, and the accommodations and infrastructure for 400 workers on the salvage project.
Salvors had hoped to float her by spring to clear the island for the summer tourism season. The ship blocks a portion of the shore and is an unpleasant reminder of the tragedy. The many workers also take up every available bit of housing so traditional tourism is displaced for now. Being an island also means the ancient cisterns used for drinking water must be filed by ships from the mainland since rainfall alone cannot quench everyone's thirst.
Soft mud is hampering the effort to tip the ship upright using winches secured to anchors in the sea bed. Bigger drill rigs are arriving to bore into solid rock so the anchors can be placed securely. The operation will continue until at least July of 2013. Strong storms whip the area each autumn and although it is difficult to think any more damage could be done to the area it is possible if the ship breaks up spilling the contents.
Fuel and lubricating oil was already removed by a process called hot tapping to keep those wastes out of the environment. Smaller pollution sources are a greater concern. Passenger baggage, cleaning supplies, and small equipment all contain things that are strong pollutants. There is likely a nasty cocktail of chemicals in the ship that will need to be collected and processed once the ship is pumped dry.
Steel beams will attach to seabed anchors and carry cable meant to pull the ship upright. These temporary cranes are being built on both sides of the ship for maximum force. This is one of the largest salvage operations in maritime history so it's acceptable to move carefully.
Once the ship is righted and stabilized it will be towed to a breaking yard for disassembly and recycling.
Ships are now under much more scrutiny and no loner pass so close to the island. The behavior of the cruise company, the master, and the crew in this case was terrible at the time of the accident and continues to be terrible today. The Master may face twenty years in prison for his role and the shipowner faces some tough scrutiny as the legal process moves forward.
Arrogance and poor ship handling skills caused the accident and others like it. There was a sailor on the bridge with some real courage and skill who dropped and dragged the starboard anchor to turn the floundering ship towards land and shallow waters where a complete capsize could be avoided. The Master was in his cabin at the time getting his luggage to disembark.