I’m back in Giglio, Italy almost 10 months after the parbuckling operation which righted Costa Concordia to an upright position.
The parbuckling took place over 24 hours and seemed painfully slow at the time. This refloat and eventual tow to the scrapyard in Genoa will take at least a week, but the pace today has somehow felt quicker.
It was also very quiet last September, with just locals and journalists (of course) watching from the portside; the atmosphere felt slightly surreal. This time, the second phase of the operation is being done against the backdrop of hundreds of tourists, who line the port, often taking up a spot to stare out at the ship all day.
The good news is it’s all going to plan – the ship has been raised between two and four metres (6.5 to 13 feet) and towed 30 metres from shore (98 feet) . So far so good.
There’s a strong feeling now that the end is in sight (the parbuckling was just phase one of this massive operation), and everyone I speak to acknowledges it: time to move on.
The islanders can get back to the life they had before January 13, 2012; the salvage workers can go home and Costa can look towards the christening of their new flagship, Costa Diadema, in November.
Last time I was here I wrote about the celebrations which took place all along the port when the parbuckling was completed successfully. No doubt there will be ‘celebrations’ when this next phase is complete, but there’s no feeling of joy: it’s more about a job well done.
At the press conference, one of the senior officials told us that yesterday everyone involved said prayers at the statue erected to those who lost their lives that night. He made the point that this is not celebratory, it will almost be cathartic.
Overall, there is a feeling of deep respect that this was a terrible tragedy, but also of immense pride that an operation of this size – the biggest ever maritime salvage operation – has so far gone entirely to plan.
When the wreck does leave, it will leave a hole in this town’s collective psyche. Here in Giglio, it’s been impossible to pretend that the ship isn’t here, like a TV that’s always blaring in the background.
Flying into Rome, the huge, mangled ship remains are there on the right as we descended (pointed out by the pilot); It’s there out of the car window as you make your way to the castle at the top of the island. It’s there when you’re walking along the port, scarring the shoreline for the past two and half years. In all ways, Costa Concordia has been a big part of the islanders’ lives.
Over the next few days, the ship will become even more prominent as it is raised even higher – from Decks 6 to 3, tipping it slightly to let the seawater run out . Then next Monday, it will begin its final journey, being towed at a stately two knots to the shipyard in Genoa where it will be dismantled and recycled.
Officials said that after the ship is towed, the search will continue on the seabed for Russel Rebello, the Indonesian waiter whose body has still not been recovered. If it’s not found in Giglio, the ship will be searched again in Genoa.
*Read our slideshow about Costa Concordia raising, with more photos.
*Got a question about the operation? Ask our U.K. Editor Adam Coulter, who will be reporting live all week.