Crews rushing to right disabled cruise ship

People sunbathe as the Costa Concordia Ship wreck is visible in background, in the Tuscan Island of Isola del Giglio, Monday, July 15, 2013. Salvage crews are working against time to right and remove the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship, which is steadily compressing down on itself from sheer weight onto its granite seabed perch off the Tuscan island of Giglio. Salvage master Nick Sloane said Monday that the Concordia has compressed some 3 meters (10 feet) since it came to rest on the rocks Jan. 13, 2012 after ramming a jagged reef during a stunt ordered by the captain that cost the lives of 32 people. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
People sunbathe as the Costa Concordia Ship wreck is visible in background, in the Tuscan Island of Isola del Giglio, Monday, July 15, 2013. Salvage crews are working against time to right and remove the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship, which is steadily compressing down on itself from sheer weight onto its granite seabed perch off the Tuscan island of Giglio. Salvage master Nick Sloane said Monday that the Concordia has compressed some 3 meters (10 feet) since it came to rest on the rocks Jan. 13, 2012 after ramming a jagged reef during a stunt ordered by the captain that cost the lives of 32 people. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) (AP)

The Costa Concordia hit a reef in 2012, killing 32.

Posted: July 17, 2013

GIGLIO, Italy - Salvage crews are working against time to remove the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship, which is steadily being crushed under its own weight on its granite seabed off the Tuscan island of Giglio. Officials said Monday that if this attempt fails, there won't be a second chance.

Nick Sloane, the leader of the operation, said the Concordia has compressed about 10 feet since it came to rest on the rocks Jan. 13, 2012, after ramming a jagged reef during a publicity stunt allegedly ordered by the captain; 32 people were killed.

Sloane, an engineer for U.S.-owned Titan Salvage company, said experts would have one chance to pull the ship upright and float it away to the mainland for demolition. The attempt will probably take place in mid-September. "We cannot put it back" down and start over, said Sloane.

Sloane spoke aboard a work boat as he accompanied journalists for a close-up look of the wreckage on the eve of the trial of Capt. Francesco Schettino, who is charged with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning the ship before all passengers had been evacuated. The trial, which was supposed to get underway last Tuesday, was postponed until Wednesday due to a lawyers' strike.

The timetable to remove the Concordia has also suffered delays. The original timetable envisioned removal before start of this summer, but harsh weather undermined those plans.

"We had a rough winter," said Sloane, explaining that winter's rough sea conditions made it risky for diving teams to install cement-filled bags that would provide a more stable base on which to roll the ship upright.

Sloane said the granite seabed also proved more resistant to drilling than planned, "like trying to drill through glass at a 45 degree angle."

Pressure to make the unprecedented operation succeed is high because the difficulties will only grow with time.

"Another winter and we might not be able to parbuckle," Sloane said, using the nautical term for righting a ship. He explained that the ship might compress even further, making it more difficult to right.

On Monday, several welders moved like Spiderman on the now horizontal hull, securing the steel pieces that will function as hooks to fasten the 17,000-ton steel chains looped under the wreck to help pull it upright. So far 18 chains have been laid, with the remaining four to be put in place over the next few days.

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