Titan Salvage, a Pompano Beach, Florida Salvage Company, has been commissioned to get the Costa Concordia wreck safely back to port, reports indicate. The Pompano Beach company, which specialized in clearing shipwrecks, reportedly won the $288 million contract over five other bids. The operation is expected to begin next month.
Reports indicate that the Titan Salvage will be working in tandem with an Italian company called Micoperi in an effort to refloat the Costa Concordia and tow it back to a nearby Italian port. Officials say that the operation is expected to take approximately one year and will be one of the most ambitious projects ever undergone to recover a sunken vessel.
“This is going to be a monster of engineering,” announced Gage Parrot, the owner of Titan Salvage. “I don’t think anyone has ever tried to do anything more complicated than this… my father would be extremely proud of what’s going on with Titan and to see the legacy he created.” Titan Salvage was started by Gage Parrot’s father in 1980 and has a history of tackling complex cleanup projects in creative ways, including a recent cleanup in the Oregon coast that involved rope-climbing salvage crews.
The Costa Concordia is 950 feet long and weighs 114,500 gross tons, three times as much as the Titanic. The vessel is lodged in the rocks off of the coast of Giglio island, which is right near a large marine conservatory home to porpoises and other at-risk forms of marine life. Officials say that the want the ship removed in one piece in order to minimize risks and environmental repercussions. They hope to accomplish this by rolling the vessel back into open water and refloating it. After the ship has been removed, workers will work to clean the surrounding area.
“Salvage workers’ presence will not have any significant impact on the availability of hotel accommodation on the island during the summer season. The main operating base will be located on the mainland at nearby Civitavecchia, where equipment and materials will be stored, thereby avoiding any impact on Giglio’s port activities,” said the Costa company in response to concerns that the cleanup operation would stall tourism on Giglio island, a popular vacation spot.
The January cruise ship accident, which drew widespread international attention, occurred after Francesco Schettino, the ship’s captain, deviated from the ship’s set course in order to perform a ‘salute’ to a former coworker who lives on the island. The captain said that such salutes were a common practice and that this one had been mandated by the cruise line, although the claims have yet to be substantiated.
Schettino has been blamed for the disorganized, late evacuation efforts that troubled the cruise liner in the hours following the crash as well. Witnesses say that he spent the hour after the crash on his cell phone before getting into a lifeboat and making for shore well before the evacuation was complete. Schettino claims that he tripped and fell into the lifeboat. 32 people of all ages and nationalities have been confirmed dead because of the crash, although efforts to locate bodies have been largely halted. Charges are pending in the case, although Schettino’s criminal defense attorney continues to proclaim Schettino’s innocence.