Spring 2014

Helping salvage the Costa Concordia

The raising of the stricken Costa Concordia was the biggest maritime operation of its kind – and Prolec’s Digmaster system was employed on the hydraulic digger used to build the false seabed on which the vessel now rests.

The successful 19-hour operation to haul the 114,500 tonne cruise ship upright took place last September off the Italian island of Giglio, where the Concordia had lain partially submerged since running aground in January 2012 – with the tragic loss of 32 passengers and crew. A process called parbuckling was used to roll the ship up to vertical, using cables and the weight of the water held in huge metal containers attached to the vessel’s sides.

Seabed preparation

The Digmaster system was installed on a hydraulic digger that was equipped with a pneumatic drill. Working in tandem with the GPS system provided by the Dutch company Seabed B.V., the Digmaster allowed the operators to see the tool’s position underwater, enabling more rapid and more accurate construction of the pre-defined false seabed.

“There are a lot of guidance systems on the market, but ours is richer in content. The Digmaster gives a better, real-time view of what the machine is doing – and that’s important when you are doing precise work, as was the case in the salvage of the Costa Concordia.”

Says Gary Tuffy, Prolec’s sales and marketing director. 

Righting the huge ship was indeed a delicate operation: it had been feared that it could break up, or even tip off the artificial seabed into deeper waters.

“Another benefit of the Digmaster is that it offers multiple views. You can zoom in close to the target and you can also ‘mirror’ the different tools used on the digger – such as the pneumatic drill used in the Concordia application – in their proper dimensions. This is something that our competitors cannot do.”

Adds Gary. 

The Digmaster, as its name implies, is most often used for digging and dredging work, and Gary is delighted that it has proved to be an adaptable enough tool to be used in this very different – and high profile – operation. He is full of praise for the team at Seabed B.V., who distribute and sell the system.

Gary explains:

“They have been using the Digmaster for ten years, and they have an intimate understanding of it, and its many applications.”

For the Costa Concordia, the plan is to refloat the vessel later this year and tow it to port, where it will be broken up. In total, it is reckoned that the salvage operation will cost in excess of a600 million.

“We are really pleased to have been able to play such an important role in this high profile and very sensitive salvage operation following the tragedy surrounding the vessel’s loss. It serves to demonstrate that however challenging the task, Prolec is a very safe and trusted supplier.”

Concludes Gary. 

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