The faces of the Costa Concordia salvage…
It’s lunch time in early September on Giglio Island, Italy. Two summers ago, you would have found the quaint Port of Giglio bustling with tourists. The grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship on January 13, 2012 that led to the tragic loss of 32 lives, has changed that scene. You will now find the port filled with the men working to relieve the island of this heavy burden.
The crew now dominate this area, working up to 14 hour days. You will find a continuous taxiing back and forth from the wreckage to the port- day and night. These men come from all over the world. Some work for two month stints, go home for a few weeks and come back, while others stay on longer. Some are single, and many have left families behind.
The recovery of the ship…
The clock is ticking on the decaying wreckage, and the most difficult maneuver is set to occur next week. At this point, every minute that passes in the Costa Concordia salvage makes it all the more risky.
Italian authorities have given the go-ahead for the marine salvage companies of Titan and Micoperi to attempt to upright the massive ship onto a platform shelf constructed on the seabed. Once vertical, workers will work toward towing the ship to the port of Piombino to be scrapped. They are hoping this will be done in the spring of 2014, but this date comes with great uncertainty.
The process of uprighting the ship is called “parbuckling” and the project itself has been aptly named by Titan as “The Parbuckling Project.”
They will likely get only one chance to pull the ship upright. When I spoke to the crew about it, they simply looked at me with eyebrows raised and fingers crossed. The concern is over the starboard side of the ship, which has been submerged for a year-and-a-half. There is a very real fear that it could buckle under the strain as the ship is pulled upright.
The recovery of the island…
The people of Giglio (the Gigliesi) are becoming more bitter by the day, staring at the ship and cursing the name of Captain Schettino, the man who caused this mess to begin with.
The tourists are still here, mostly to capture a piece of history before it is removed. Many come in on the ferry, take photos, and leave. This has left the island with a dwindling economy.
What will become of the future of Giglio? It’s difficult to say. One thing is for sure- this island is one of the most beautiful in the world.
While the tourists numbers have gone down, they have not gone away. The island is still as stunning as it ever was, the water as crystal clear, and the Gigliesi as kind and welcoming.
On a more positive note…
There is something good that has come of all of this- the many love stories that have blossomed between the workers and the locals.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a few more of these around the island in the next couple of years!
Visiting the island…
If you are visiting Giglio Island as a historian or you are on holiday, remember that the island and its people have so much more to offer than a rusting cruise ship. Enjoy one of the many delicious restaurants, stay a night or two- or even a week. Realize that once you step foot on Giglio, you have entered a Mediterranean paradise.
How to get to Giglio Island
Whether you have your own car, or take the bus- you will first need to arrive in Porto Santo Stefano.
From the north, Pisa and Florence- drive to Grosseto. Take the bypass south (toward Rome) and follow the Via Aurelia until Albinia (around 34 km). Leave the motorway and follow the signs to Porto Santo Stefano (12 km).
From the south, Rome- take the Via Aurelia (till Civitavecchia motorway A12) to Orbetello, leave the Via Aurelia and follow the signs to Porto Santo Stefano (12 km).
There are two ferry companies that take you from Porto Santo Stefano to Giglio Porto:
Porto St. Stefano’s office tel.: +39 0564 810803
Giglio Porto’s office tel.: +39 0564 809349
Porto St. Stefano’s office tel.: +39 0564 812920
Giglio Porto’s office tel.: +39 0564 809309
You can find more information on the Giglio Info.
I am in the process of writing a book about the Gigliesi and their experiences the night the Costa Concordia was run aground on their island. You can find more information about the book HERE.
For more information on the Costa Concordia click HERE.