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April 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 39, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Why Not Make the Costa Concordia a Diverís Paradise?

from the April, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It was big news last year when the cruise ship Costa Concordia struck a rock off Italy's Mediterranean coast. It was the largest passenger wreck of all time, with 30 passenger deaths, and the wreck is still sitting, mostly submerged. Because the Costa Concordia is in a nationally protected marine park and coral reef, it must be removed from the area before it can be dismantled, posing countless difficulties. There's a salvage plan, but at $400 million (paid for by insurance companies), it's the most expensive, complicated and riskiest salvage operation ever to be undertaken - and no one is sure if it will work.

The Costa Concordia is sitting on two underwater mountain peaks, with 65 percent of it below the surface. The plan is to rotate the ship upright and onto an underwater platform. Then it will float up, leaving more of its structure above the surface, and can be towed away. The platform, being built in northern Italy, then it must be transported around Italy's boot and up to the wreck. The steel, which weighs three times as much as the Eiffel Tower, will be embedded in the seafloor. It's a highly complex and expensive plan, involving welding a new ship, which will consist of huge, hollow steel boxes called sponsons, onto the shipwreck, connecting them to a metal platform, and using hydraulic platforms to pull the ship upright and make it float. The goal is to have it do so by next summer. 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl recently did a report on the proposed operation -- view it at

Why Not Make the Costa Concordia a Diver's Paradise?But Undercurrent reader Nick Herbert, a former technical diver turned dive instructor and aircraft engineer in Hong Kong, offers an alternative. "Surely a far less costly method -- and eventually more beneficial to the local economy -- would be to empty the ship of all petroleum-based and other toxic fluids, where it lies. The skilled commercial divers necessary for this process are already on site. After pumping out the liquid liabilities, the next step would be to weld any narrow companionways closed to seal off any remaining hazardous areas, and cut large access holes in suitably (safer) areas of interest. Then the ship is released and allowed to 'roll' down the (already damaged) reef to the seabed. Once stabilized there, a final check, et voila -- a 'new' wreck for sports divers to visit. She'll become home to a vast array of local underwater wildlife, thus eventually balancing most of the reef damage already incurred. Local hotels and restaurants will prosper, a dive shop will inevitably open in the area, and the whole thing will cost a lot less than this $400 million proposal!"

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