The luxury liner Costa Concordia was slowly pulled Monday from an Italian reef some 20 months after it became shipwrecked in a maritime disaster that claimed 32 lives.
Italian authorities were hoping the unprecedented salvage operation would bring the capsized ship fully upright within 18 hours.
The operation began at 9 a.m. local time and involved the use of some 6,000 tons of force applied to the side of the ship using a complex system of pulleys and counterweights. Engineer Sergio Girotto told CBS News that underwater cameras captured images of the vessel being freed
from the reef three hours after the operation began.
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Those behind the operation were hoping the ship would be fully upright within 12 hours, but after seven hours, the Concordia had been nudged only 10 degrees.
“It’s taking longer than expected,” Girotto said in a news briefing. “Even if it’s 15 to 18 hours, we’re OK with that. We are happy the way things are going.”
Authorities say the 114,000-ton Concordia is the largest cruise ship ever to capsize. It is more than twice the size of the Titanic.
The complex salvage operation, known as parbuckling, has been used before, including on the Oklahoma, which sank after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
An international team of some 500 engineers and mechanics has been working for months to right the ship and pull it away for salvage operations.
The Concordia slammed into a reef and capsized after the ship’s captain steered it too close to the Tuscan island of Giglio on Jan. 13, 2012. Two bodies have never been recovered, and Girotto said cameras have yet to find any signs of the victims during Monday’s operation, The Associated Press reported
The AP described the operation as one using remote controls to guide a system of pulleys, counterweights and huge chains looped under the ship to nudge it free. As the ship is rotated, several tanks placed on the exposed side of the hull are filled with water to help pull it down.
“The size of the ship and her location make this the most challenging operation I’ve ever been involved in,” Nick Sloane, the South African senior salvage master of the operation and project leader for contractors Titan Salvage, told CBS News.
Engineers say there is only a remote chance that the ship may break apart during the complex operation. If that were to happen, it would be impossible to tow it to a shipyard on the mainland where the Concordia is to be turned into scrap.
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