Next phase begins for Concordia salvage

Costa Concordia is off its side, but it will take months before the crippled ship departs its temporary perch for good.

Having raised the hulking wreck in an intricate engineering operation, salvage teams now have several new tasks.

They must assess the structural damage on the starboard side. They have to remove any residual noxious fluids. And they will search for the bodies of a passenger and a crew member still unaccounted for. Then they will begin the process of making Concordia ready for refloatation.

Initially that involves building more external caissons, big steel boxes that will be welded onto the starboard side, the way they were added to the port side to help right the ship. After that is done, the water that was pumped into the port caissons to add ballast to that side will be removed.

The Concordia still sits about 30 feet underwater. Divers will close the hole opened by the rock that Concordia struck and mend other areas on the starboard side that are not watertight.

Eventually the caissons on both sides will be filled with air so that they become giant flotation devices. The idea is to lift the Concordia off its resting place on the underwater platform, and tow it to a port. The final floatation isn't expected to take place until next spring at the earliest.

The plan is for the 114,000-gross-ton ship to be scrapped.

The underwater platform will be removed after Concordia departs, and environmental technicians will begin the job of replanting and restoring the seabed where the Concordia lay for 20 months.
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