Monday, January 23, 2012

Brother, Can You Lend Me $450 Million?



Like much of the rest of the world, I've been absolutely mesmerized by the January 13th sinking of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy.

Susan and I have done a bunch of cruises over the years, so one naturally places oneself in this setting; and yet this is completely anathema to every experience we've had on a cruise ship. All of our cruises have been with Holland America, and they've never put a foot wrong. Everything is friendly but quietly professional at every turn. Quite apart from the initial, showboating mistake of the Concordia's captain, I feel confident that no Holland America crew would allow such disarray and mayhem once an incident had occurred.

But that's of little help to the passengers of the Concordia. The pictures of the ship, still lit up like a christmas tree, listing to one side next to the island of Giglio have a huge fascination / horror factor, especially when followed a short time later by the half-submerged ship laying on its side.



Of course one's heart aches for those who did not make it off, and for their friends and loved ones who will suffer their loss. But after that initial pain, I'm fascinated at the prospect of what they'll do with the wreck from here onward. They can't just drag it into deeper water, nor, I suspect, can they cut it up where it lies, at least if they want to preserve the pristine setting where this all occurred. I'm also taking it as a given that the ship is beyond salvage, so that no attempt to save it for refitting will be involved. I could be wrong on all these counts, of course.



One article I read said that the ship would likely be moved, once the fuel is off-loaded, by first patching the hole then surrounding it with flotation and rolling it to an upright-but-mostly-submerged state. And then the water pumped out. I would pay money for a front row seat to witness such an operation. I wonder if it's ever been tried before?

Regardless, someone will have to do something about the wreck. I'll be watching eagerly to see what is decided.

An L.A. Times article from a couple days ago addresses some of these questions.

6 comments:

payingattention said...

I've only been on two short cruises, but each involved a safety drill on lifeboats/life preservers/etc. Who knows whether the crew would have been so professional "in the event of a real emergency" but I was impressed with the exercise, anyway.

wunelle said...

Our cruises have always seemed top-shelf professional. Maybe the ship, you know, sinking would have a different flavor. But we've never seen even a hint of this kind of mayhem on Holland America.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

We've been on one cruise, had the safety drill, and did not have any problems. That said, I would think they'd try to salvage the ship. There's too much value still in it not to, but it will be a messy and expensive job.

lacochran's evil twin said...

I've no idea what they'll do with it. I did hear that a safety/lifeboat drill was planned for the afternoon of the day it ran aground. That was three days in to the cruise, I believe. Tsk.

wunelle said...

I'd love to be present for the engineering presentations on what can and cannot be salvaged vs the cost of the salvage vs the residual value of the ship vs the cost to repair and retrofit. I suspect the whole affair will have submerged beneath the newsworthy threshold by the time these decisions are made. We'll see...

wunelle said...

A couple fascinating articles about the righting and refloating of the USS Oklahoma which was torpedoed at the attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship rolled on her side past 90° and sank in shallow water. It was the end of the line for an old ship, but an extensive effort was undertaken to right her and float her again to get her to drydock. She was then sold for scrap and sunk on her way to San Francisco.

http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-pac/pearlhbr/ph-ok9.htm