Can the Costa Concordia be refloated?
January 14, 2012 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to refloat a ship that has capsized?

Seeing the pictures of the Costa Concordia, laying on its side in shallow water, really breaks my heart. Can it be refloated? Is it possible to save it? Presumably it would cost a fortune to do so, if it were possible, but still less than the ship cost originally.

If it is possible, how would they do it? How do you get it from where it is now to some sort of drydock, and how do you get it righted?
posted by Chocolate Pickle to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: A different point: how in hell did it end up that way? Running aground doesn't necessarily mean tipping over.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:24 AM on January 14, 2012

could be all kinds of navigation errors that would cause it to run aground, but tipping like that is likely due to ballast tanks being damaged.
posted by lyra4 at 11:34 AM on January 14, 2012

Best answer: Marine Salvage
posted by gyusan at 11:35 AM on January 14, 2012

Best answer: During WWII, seven of the ships sunk by the Japanese during the Pearl Harbor attacks were eventually refloated; During the civil war, the south refloated the Merrimack and armor plated it for the battle against the Monitor.

SMIT is the Dutch company that national geographic filmed in their "Salvage Code Red" series; their Salvage Projects Page lists some of the techniques they've used in the past- the Nordlys salvage (pumps to redistribute the water within the ship) seems pretty close to this situation.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2012

Best answer: Here is a how-to with pictures about on of the above referenced Pearl Harbor ships. the USS California.
posted by lampshade at 11:48 AM on January 14, 2012

Also, not grounded, but if you haven't read High Tech Cowboys of the Deep Seas: The Race to Save the Cougar Ace, then you've missed out on one of the better bits of longform journalism I've read.
posted by ambrosen at 11:55 AM on January 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: These days it seems like Wikipedia updates as rapidly as the NY Times. I just looked at the Wikipedia page for the Costa Concordia.
At 17:48 UTC La Repubblica reported that the Captain had stated that they were 300 metres (330 yd) from the rocks (i.e. about the length of the vessel) and that they hit a rock that was not marked on nautical charts. This reef was about 800 metres (870 yd) south of the entrance to the harbour of Giglio. The vessel continued on for approximately another 1,000 metres (1,100 yd) until just north of the harbour entrance. The vessel then turned in an attempt to get close to the harbour. This turn shifted the centre of gravity to the starboard side of the ship, and she listed over to that side initially by about 20°, finally coming to rest at an angle of heel of about 80°.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:55 AM on January 14, 2012

If you do a Google image search for "USS Cole Transport" you see how they recovered that Cruiser after it had the hole blown into it's side. I just saw pictures of your cruise ship with the gash exposed and a huge rock in the side of the vessel. I image after they take that out and put a temporary repair patch over the gash, they will try to right the ship, empty the ballast tanks if they can, and pull her into the nearest drydock for repairs or salvage.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:56 AM on January 14, 2012

Best answer: It's eminently possible to re-float a capsized and damaged ship. The real question is, is it economical to do so?

It's just like a wrecked car, but on a larger scale. With the damage done to that particular ship, my guess is that the insurance company will essentially consider the ship "totaled." In which case it will be sold to the highest bidder, or basically torn apart and sold in the marine equivalent of "parting it out."

Military ships are often salvaged, repaired, and sent back into battle - but a military ship represents a huge investment of materiel, particularly during wartime. And the military has a lot of people and equipment to do the work.
posted by ErikaB at 11:57 AM on January 14, 2012

how in hell did it end up that way? Running aground doesn't necessarily mean tipping over.

The hole in the side meant water rushed in. As soon as it causes an imbalance (like flooding a chamber on one side of the ship, that causes a lean, which means more water flows to that side and so it continues....

posted by Brockles at 11:57 AM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

A different point: how in hell did it end up that way? Running aground doesn't necessarily mean tipping over.

A ship is pointy on the bottom. When it runs aground, it's balanced precariously on that pointy bottom. Waves push it, and it tips a bit. Water starts spilling in, and hey presto, you've got yourself a sideways ship.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:59 AM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

...they hit a rock that was not marked on nautical charts.

Look how many stories that thing has!

I wonder whether the nautical charts were even compiled with the possibility of a ship with as deep a draft as that much superstructure would require in mind.
posted by jamjam at 12:05 PM on January 14, 2012

Actually, what does a modern cruise ship look like below the waterline? I mean, there are plenty of photos of cruise ships above the waterline, but what do they look like underwater? How many feet of boat are underwater? (I suspect the bottom is less pointy than other ships, simply because they have to dock at cruise terminals around the world.)
posted by exphysicist345 at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2012

On the wikipedia page, the ship is listed as having a draft of 8.50 m (27 ft 11 in). Certainly not a crazy deep draft, and you'd expect to see charts covering any rocks near a shipping channel at that depth.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:18 PM on January 14, 2012

It tipped over because it tore a hole in its side by hitting underwater rocks, and water rushed in.

This is also how the Titanic sunk, though it was done in by an iceberg, not rocks.
posted by dfriedman at 12:22 PM on January 14, 2012

Read the link to the story ambrosen provided! Riveting story.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:32 PM on January 14, 2012

Here's an image of a cruise liner in dry dock, and a page with a better comparative view.
posted by holgate at 12:40 PM on January 14, 2012

Oh my goodness, this is all so interesting (yes, riveting!). It deserves a fpp (though admittedly I haven't checked to see if it's been done).
posted by Glinn at 2:46 PM on January 14, 2012

The Cougar Ace story I linked to was covered here.
posted by ambrosen at 3:35 PM on January 14, 2012

For some fabulous stories that also really get into the nuts and bolts of how salvage works, I recommend Farley Mowat's Grey Seas Under and The Serpent's Coil The Serpent's coil, in particular, covers how they managed to recover a ship that ended up on its side in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
posted by rockindata at 8:01 PM on January 14, 2012

Response by poster: Update on this: The ship's captain and first officer have been arrested.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:53 PM on January 15, 2012

Actually, what does a modern cruise ship look like below the waterline?

A friend sends along this email, from a friend of his in Florida:
The photos of a capsided 13-deck ship that sank in hours killing some passengers show a dramatically fast sinking. I made a quick check of launching photos of the Costa Concordia to confirm my suspicisions. Cruise Ships of this type are built with a bouyancy hull that resembles a large barge and having sailed over more than one Rogue Wave mid ocean I have a personal caution when considering a Cruise in a ship built this way.

I am a Retired U.S. Navy Diver with training in ship's stability and salvage when they sink. From my years of experience looking at these new cruise ships they look actually like a barge with story after story of luxury piled on top. Barges flip over and stay afloat upside down for sometimes a tow back to port (upside down) to be salvaged. Hydrodynamics teaches that this form of hull is not a design that shipmakers with centuries of experiences put into the ocean going ships, post Titanic, to hopefully prevent this exact type of accident of the Costa Concordia. Ship's hulls are supposed to be designed to prevent this type of capsizing. My guess; we will see that the bottom was not thick enough, the barge portion of the hull most likely containing all of the ship's services, engine room, laundry, galley etc. did not have watertight intergrity and may have been tied open by the crew tired of opening and shutting doors. Stacking this much luxury up 13 decks on top of a barge is inherently unstable on an ocean going hull, but in my opinion is deadly when stacked on a barge.

Since I retired from the Navy, I have resisted invitations to cruise on ships like this and if you are looking to cruise I recommend that you seek a much older ship that has the older fashion Ocean Going Hull. Yes, there will not be Grand Staircases and Climbing Walls and Water Slides, but Metacentric Heights and Stability do not change just because a cruise company wants to push more vacationers into cabins. This is strictly my opinion without studying this accident but an impression I have been gathering from promotion of these new luxury Cruise Ships over the last few years. I am not singling out any company but view all of these ships to be dangerous not just the Costa Concordia. Or... said another way... I would rather cross the Atlantic in winter on the QE II, or a ship of that type.

Since November 2008, of course, the QE II (which I actually have been tied to the side of, loading and unloading passengers) has been retired. But you get the idea.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:23 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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