Parbuckling is a standard operation to right capsized ships. But never before had it been used on such a huge cruise liner.
The Concordia is expected to be floated away from Giglio in the spring. The aim was to right it intact, to prevent the leakage of potentially toxic waste into the pristine waters around Giglio, which is located in a marine sanctuary.
Sloane said an initial inspection of the starboard side, covered in brown slime from its 20 months under water, indicated serious damage that must be assessed and fixed in the coming weeks and months. But Sloane seemed confident: “She was strong enough to come up like this, she’s strong enough to be towed.”
The starboard side of the ship, which was raised 65 degrees in the operation, must be stabilized to enable crews to attach empty tanks on the side that will later be used to help float the vessel away. Currently, the ship is about two-thirds submerged, engineers said.
Such tanks were affixed to the exposed, port side of the ship and were filled with water in the later phases of the rotation to help pull the port side down.
The ship must be made strong enough to withstand the winter storm season, when high seas and gusts will likely buffet the 300-meter (1,000-foot) long liner.
After receiving cheers, embraces and a kiss from his wife on shore, Sloane said he wanted to get some sleep, a beer “and maybe a barbeque tomorrow.” He was later seen celebrating in a harborside bar with members of the salvage team.
“I think the whole team is proud of what they achieved,” he said as he was mobbed by well-wishers and television crews, still wearing an orange life vest around his neck and carrying a South African flag that was handed to him by his wife.
Helping the Concordia to weather the winter and stabilize it is an artificial platform on the seabed that was constructed to support the ship’s flat keel.
About an hour before the rotation was complete, observers said the ship seemed to suddenly settle down upon its new perch, with a clear brown-green line of algae drawn across its front delineating the half of the liner that had been underwater and the half that was exposed.
Mayor Sergio Ortelli said the island felt a wave of relief as soon as the Concordia was freed from the reef in the initial hours of the operation. But he said there was also the realization that two bodies still have yet to be found.
“While there is happiness today, there is no triumphalism,” he told The Associated Press.
The Concordia’s captain is on trial for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship during the chaotic and delayed evacuation. Capt. Francesco Schettino claims the reef wasn’t on the nautical charts for the liner’s weeklong Mediterranean cruise. Five other Costa employees were convicted of manslaughter in a plea bargain and were sentenced to less than three years apiece.
Costa is a division of Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise company.