This is the Cruise Minus page on the Costa Concordia accident. What happened? Why the cruise ship sank? Compare facts related to the worst cruise ship disaster ever. Learn all about the vessel’s salvage plan and the wreckage removal operation procedures.
You can also read the official Costa Concordia accident report in PDF (opens in a new tab). For your convenience, follows the page’s navigation menu with shortcuts to:
- accident report
- sinking animation
- disaster facts
- the Captain’s wiki
- salvage plan
- removal operation and procedures
- ship removal progress and news
- last voyage (real-time ship position tracking)
This is the most “stupidly unique” passenger cruise ship disaster of all times.
Costa Concordia accident
The owned by Carnival Corporation cruise ship Costa Concordia was identified by IMO number 9320544, MMSI number 9320544 and CallSign IBHD.
Costa Concordia salvage operation turned out to be the most expensive and the riskiest ever. The wreck of the liner continued to sit off the Tuscany’s coast semi-submerged right until May 2015.
The Italian cruise ship sank on the evening of Friday 13th (this combination again) off the Tuscan West Coast of Italy near the island of Giglio. The ship’s sinking was a true tragedy – both as lost lives and huge financial losses, but also as a major cruise ship safety issue.
The Concordia ship’s specifications were:
- gross tonnage 114,500 tons
- length 952 ft (290 m)
- max passenger capacity 3,780 guests and 1,100 staff and crew
- maiden voyage July 14th 2006
- godmother – Eva Herzigova (luxury brand fashion model)
The vessel’s operator – the Costa Crociere brand – is a major subsidiary company of the largest cruise ship owner in the world – Carnival Corporation & PLC. The Europe’s cheapest cruise line, Costa operates predominantly in the Mediterranean with a fleet of mostly big-sized ships.
The “jinxed” Costa cruise ship – facts to fiction
- The cruise ship disaster date was Friday 13th, and the year was 2012. Some noticed that RMS Titanic sank almost exactly 100 years ago – on April 14, 1912.
- The ship’s name is “Concordia”. Some remembered the Concorde plane crash on July 25, 2000.
- The inauspicious launch- the failure on the christening ceremony, when the ceremonial Champagne bottle failed to break on the bow of the new ship on September 2, 2005.
On the Concordia cruise ship remained ~18,000 bottles of wine. They are still there today, inside the wreck. When Concordia sank in 2012, there were also ~6900 litres (~1820 gallons US) of ice cream on board.
The Concordia cruise ship accident occurred at ~10 pm local time (UTC+1). It happened ~2 hours after starting an 8-day Mediterranean voyage from homeport Civitavecchia (port for Rome). The round-trip cruise itinerary was scheduled to visit Italy (Savona), France (Marseille), Spain (Barcelona, and Palma de Mallorca), Sardinia (Cagliari) and Sicily (Palermo).
Next is the famous YouTube video based on historical AIS tracking data provided by VesselFinder.com. Vessel Finder is among the best marine ships tracking websites, and currently ranked second by popularity in the world after Marine Traffic.
As witnesses reported – it all started with a loud bang. The huge ship shuddered to a halt, then plunged into darkness experiencing a total power loss. This was the beginning of the 2 long hours of a Titanic-like experience affecting all the 3206 passengers and 1023 crew on the unfortunate ship. News teams reported from the scene many of the passengers jumped overboard and swam to shore as the vessel took on a 20-30 degree list to starboard presenting a real danger of sinking.
When the panic subsided and all passengers and crew left the vessel, it remained capsized, resting against a small breakwater.
This is the sensational Concordia’s 3D Google Earth animation video showing the exact sequence of events ending with the sinking near Giglio Island, Italy
Among the most expensive big-sized cruise ships, Costa Concordia’s cost to build was US$570 million (Euro 450 mill). The sunken Costa liner also became “the biggest insured loss in maritime history”. The cruise vessel was insured for US$513 million (Euro 405 mill). The list of its insurers included XL, RSA, Generali, Allianz. When the disaster happened, experts expected the insurance loss from the ship to be between US$500 million and 1 billion.
While these numbers were big enough, they could have grown even bigger if the over 2300 tons of diesel fuel on the ship had started to leak. In such a case, a substantial pollution liability claim would have been issued. This possibility was the sole reason Carnival stock prices to plummet by 18% on the London Stock Exchange. Carnival Corp officials expected the Concordia sinking accident to cost the company between US$155 to US$175 million (Euro 118 to 133 million), including insurance deductibles and loss of use. Because of the Concordia disaster, the Carnival Cruise Lines brand company lowered its cruise prices fleetwide just to keep up bookings. This additionally lowered the company’s net revenue for the 2012 fiscal year, and the earnings per share.
Investigation reports showed the Concordia’s notorious captain Francesco Schettino veered from the approved ship course and approached Giglio to perform a “salute” to a former Costa captain. Schettino turned off the alarm for the computer navigation system and navigated the vessel “by sight”. Obviously, he was too late when ordered to turn. The ship ended up in too shallow waters where struck a rock from the Le Scole reef. The result was an almost 160 ft (50m) gash in the hull.
- Costa Concordia final death toll was 32, with 2 missing (presumed dead) and 157 seriously injured (of which 64 injured badly). The ship may have had unregistered passengers as well.
- By nationality, most of the cruise passengers were Italians (989), 569 Germans, 462 French, Spanish (177), 129 US citizens. On the ship traveled 4229 people from 70 different countries.
- On January 31, 2012, local authorities officially ended the search for bodies in the submerged parts of the wreckage. The deformed hull and bad underwater conditions deemed too dangerous for divers. Searching continued in the waters up to 7 ml2 / 18 km2 around the ship.
- (September 26, 2013) The underwater search for the 2 missing bodies ended. After raising the wreck, divers found in the water near the ship’s central section unidentified human remains. Next step was DNA tests to be conducted for identification of the victims. The 2 missing were from the ship’s service staff – an Italian female and an Indian male.
- On August 6, 2014, at the Genoa port, during a dive search operation human remains were discovered on the ship’s Deck 3. It was presumed that this was the body of Russel Rebello (an Indian waiter) who was the only remained missing person since the ship’s sinking.
- As compensation for all damages, the operator Costa Crociere offered Euro 11,000 (~US$15,000) per passenger. The line also reimbursed all passengers with the full cruise cost, plus all travel and medical expenses following the accident. Naturally (when an opportunity presents itself) 6 of the passengers opened lawsuits against Carnival and demanded a compensation totaling US$460 million.
A Concordia-like collision with rocks incident happened on the cruise ship Costa Fortuna in June 2005. This accident was subsequently covered up, and came to light during the Concordia investigation, when Palermo Port authorities mentioned a report by one on the Fortuna’s onboard photographers who was on the ship when the collision occurred. The investigators concluded that only the favorable Mediterranean weather prevented a Concordia-like disaster.
Born 1960 in Castellammare di Stabia (a coastal town south of Naples), the Concordia’s Captain was aged 52 in the time of the accident. Captain Schettino worked for the Costa cruise company for 10 years (since 2002). His parents were sailors. He attended the naval academy in Piano di Sorrento. He worked on a tourist boat, then on super-yachts, starting a career at Costa Crociere in 2002. He was initially in charge of security, then promoted to Captain in 2006 (second-in-command officer). He was the captain of Costa Concordia for 5 years. Now he is one of the world’s most infamous Captains. Read here some of the most popular online reviews from renown news media sources on the subject of his guilt.
- “He probably saved many many lives”. Some have come to his defense (there’s a Facebook page with ~12,300 fans (as of June 2013), most of of them sailors themselves. They strongly believe Francesco Schettino have made the right decision to steer the Concordia towards port (after the collision) which saved dozens of lives.
- “In the face of danger self-preservation is an instinct, a most natural reaction”. This is simply the psychology’s “fight-or-flight response”, where the “flight” impulse usually means blind panic accompanied by (probably) a sense of depersonalisation (when “reality” around is so unreal) and myriads of disorganized feelings and thoughts of great fear or even terror intruding into the mind. Still, according to facts, the captain abandoned his ship, then denied he had left; later he claimed he “tripped and fell into a lifeboat” by accident. This is an example of someone who panicked (big time) in the face of danger, and traditionally the captain’s first and utmost priority is to ensure the safety of all passengers and crew. In moments of stress, ordinary people could become cowards, and some could become heroes – but how to foretell who will become which? The simplest answer – staff evaluation and better training. Cruise ship crew/staff need to be trained to cope with dangers and the basic instincts of self-preservation, to learn to evaluate risk and danger. After all, cruise ships are not supposed to sink, but to provide fun experiences at sea.
- “The Costa Concordia captain is a Daredevil Captain who likes to take risks”. Shirt – permanently unbuttoned, revealing a groomed chest hair. Skin – deeply tanned. Hair – slicked back in a mullet (looking confident and elegant). Reputation – a huge ego person, “He drives a ship like a Ferrari”, womanizer, insubordinate. According to the Marseilles port authority, just a month before the accident, Schettino left with Concordia the Marseilles port in 60 kn (70mph/111kmh) winds against the port authority’s orders.
- “He’s been encouraged ‘by his superiors to sail-past Giglio and other beauty islands”. According to the Costa’s officials, the decision to take the ship so close to Giglio was unauthorized. However, other captains had executed many of such “salutes (stunts?) as well, sailing very close to beautiful islands, like Capri, for example. It surely sounds like fun – the cruise liners sounded their sirens, all decks are lit up, passengers are happily excited. And this practice was good publicity for the Costa company. According to the captain Schettino’s 135 pages of testimony, the very last Costa Concordia “cruise salute” had been planned and authorized before the Civitavecchia departure. And other Costa captains had done the same thing, quote, “all around the world”.
The Concordia Captain was on trial, facing charges of manslaughter and loss of the ship (see the updates section below). According to the accident report, the main cause for the disaster is attributed to, quote, “the Master’s unconventional behavior”.
- On February 11th, 2015, the Concordia’s “Coward Captain’ Francesco Schettino was sentenced to 16 years in jail on charges for manslaughter (10 years), wrecking the ship (5 years) and abandoning ship (1 year). He also had to pay all court costs.
- On 26 January, 2012 started the fuel-pumping preparations. Workers of the contractor SMIT International (a Dutch shipwreck salvage firm) hitched to the toppled vessel a craned barge and other equipment. Then started underwater inspections for the precise locations of all the 17 fuel-tanks of the ship. These tanks had nearly 2 million litres of heavy diesel fuel. Experts identified the initial 6 fuel tanks (containing more than 50% of all fuel) to be worked on. The procedure took 4 weeks, and generally consisted of drilling into the tanks and attaching valves onto them. Then the sludge-like oil was heated, hoses were attached to the valves. They vacuumed out the oil as seawater was pumped into to displace it.
- The fuel extraction started on February 11, 2012. The position of the half-submerged cruise vessel offered some relief. It was on the coast side of Giglio, thus relatively sheltered from heavy seas. After pumping the fuel out, next step was to upright the vessel, and when afloat to tow it away.
- The fuel-pumping job was completed successfully on March 25, 2012.
- On 3 February, 2013 was decided that the ill fated Costa cruise ship will not be cut in pieces on the site, but refloated and removed whole. The words of Costa Crociere CEO Mr Fischi on the subject were “We believe that the wreck can no longer be put in use”.
- The removal operation itself was a world’s record – the largest ever ventured.
The Costa Concordia’s salvage was expected to take 12 months. Seven of the world’s best salvage companies were bidding for the contract. Those were the US based Donjohn Marine, Titan Salvage, Resolve Marine Group and T&T Marine Salvage, also Mammoet Salvage (Holland), Svitzer (Denmark) and Tito Neri (Italy).
By the deadline, 6 working salvage plans were received. By the end of April 2012, Titan Salvage (a company based in Pompano Beach, Florida USA) won the bid. The Italian “Micoperi” (an engineering firm) was contracted as the Titan’s local partner.
- Salvage procedures involved sealing up all the holes in the hull (including the huge gash). All sections of the ship were sealed off into airtight compartments. Air was pumped into the compartments to give the ship buoyancy. Then cranes and huge pontoons were brought in to straighten the wreckage and tow it away to Genoa.
- The estimate total cost of all Costa Concordia salvage operations was expected to be ~US$300 million (Euro 225 mill) or about half of the ship’s building cost.
- In September 2013 was announced that the estimated cost for the cruise ship’s removal have reached Euro 600 mill (~US$800 million).
Dynamic, complex, an unique project, the Costa Concordia salvage plan included the following steps:
- (Anchoring & stabilization). 4 submarine anchor blocks were fixed to the seabed between the wreck’s center and the coast. 12 retaining turrets were installed for use during the uprighting (parbuckling). Strandjacks mounted on the tops of the turrets were attached to a total of 24 chains (2 per turret) passing under the hull (fixed to the port side). This is a hold-back system used for balancing during the rotation (uprighting).
- (Submarine supports & portside caissons, installing a false bottom for the ship to rest after rotation). Grout bags were positioned and filled with a special eco-friendly cement to fill the empty space between the 2 rocks, the stern area and the hull’s bow, thus creating a stable base for the hull. After positioning the bags, a total of 6 platforms (3 huge and 3 smaller ones, on which the wreck will rest) were fixed into the granite ground by drilling a 2 m / 6,6 ft hole. No waste was dispersed in the sea, ever. This operation was performed by the UK’s Frugo Seacore (offshore drilling company). After the false bottom was done, the Micoperi 30 huge crane installed 15 re-floating sponsons on the ship’s left side. They were welded onto the wreck.
- (Parbuckling/rotation/uprighting) This was an extremely delicate procedure. It was done using strand jacks tightening all cables attached to the platforms and the caissons’ tops. They were pulled seawards, while the starboard turrets cables were used for balancing. The main goal was to upright the vessel without deforming its hull.
- (Starboard caissons) 15 more re-floating sponsons were attached starboard side (landside), caissons to be used during the refloating phase.
- (Re-floating) – when the hull rested on the false bottom (at depth of ~ 100 ft / 30 m), the water from the caissons on both sides was gradually pumped out. However, even on completion a big section of the ship (~ 60 ft / 18 m) remained submerged.
- (Ecosystem restoration) – the sea bottom was thoroughly cleaned. Marine flora was replanted.
- (Defueling, caretaking) right after the accident, a protection perimeter was established around the vessel using booms. On January 14, 2012, Costa engaged the Smit Salvage BV together with the Italian Tito Neri srl to remove the oil from the ship as quickly and cleanly as possible. This was done by a team of ~100 experts (international) and a total of 20 marine vessels (including transport ships, tug boats, crane barges, tankers, etc). Defueling was completed on March 24, 2012. Followed a process of cleaning significant quantities of debris from the seabed and the whole area around the ship. Caretaking ops were performed by Titan and Micoperi personnel.
- Jobs and money facts: at the Giglio’ site there were ~500 workers (of 18 different nationalities), with active engineers and divers 24/7, plus ~30 diverse marine vessels. The salvage project’s total estimated budget soared to ~US$400 million.
Salvage operations progress
- (April 5, milestone) the largest of all 5 underwater support platforms was positioned onto the seabed. “Platform No1″, as they call it, provided a secure support when the process of uprighting started. The weight of the platform was ~1000 tons (measuring 40×33 m or 131×108 ft, and 22 m / 72 ft tall). It was supported by 5 huge pillars (each 2 m / 6,5 ft in diameter). The enormous structure was lifted from a barge and positioned into place below the sunken ship by the heavy lift marine vessel “Svenja” (owner/operator SAL Heavy Lift).
- (April 10) Costa Crociere accepted a fine of US$1,31 million (Euro 1 mill). The fine was close to the max allowed by law, and settled all “potential criminal charges” following the accident. While many survivors accepted the line’s initial compensation offering of Euro 11,000 (~US$14,000) per pax, plus the reimbursements, hundreds of the cruise passengers declined and pursued civil lawsuits against the line. According to an Italian class action lawyer (representing Italian passengers only), the negotiations reached Euro 27,000 per pax as a last offer from the company. However, he and his clients were aiming much higher – 1 million euros per passenger.
- (April 15) In an Italian court begun hearings to determine whether the Concordia’s Captain Schettino and 5 other ship officers will face trial for charges related to the cruise ship disaster. The infamous captain faced trial for charges of 1) multiple manslaughter, 2) causing a shipwreck by unauthorised and unapproved deviation from the course and 3) abandoning his ship before all passengers and crew were off. Manslaughter indictments were also requested for 4 other crew, including the ship’s helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin (misunderstanding a direct command moments before the crash). The 6th with a possible indictment (manslaughter and delaying rescue, which is the main cause of loss of so many lives) was the chief of the line’s crisis unit Roberto Ferrarini. There were 40 pre-trial hearings scheduled in the town of Grosetto through July. Survivors were allowed to attend all hearings.
- (April 17) the 1st of the portside sponsons (p10) was installed.
- (Early June 2013) the 2nd platform (weight ~1000 tons, dimensions 40×22 m / 131×72 ft) was installed. It was the 5th out of 6 platforms designed to secure a safe support for the wreck after parbuckling (when the ship is rotated into a vertical position). During that time, there were 25 marine vessels and ~460 workers on the site.
- (July 22) At the “Civil Protection” headquarters (Rome), representatives of Titan-Micoperi and Costa Cruises presented a report on the removal progress. Detailed technical documentation was provided to the “Observatory for Concordia Removal” for evaluation of the parbuckling (the wreck’s vertical rotation) project.
- (July 23, 2013) 4 Concordia crew and 1 Costa Cruises official were sentenced to prison for their part in the disaster. They received sentences between 18 to 34 months, just because they all pleaded guilty, thus avoiding a lengthy trial. The five sentences were: Roberto Ferrarini (director of the company’s crisis unit – 2 years 10 months), Manrico Giampedroni (hotel service director – 2 years 6 months), with sentences from 1 year 8 months to 1 year 11 months are Ciro Ambrosio (1st officer), Jacob Rusli Bin (helmsman) and Silvia Coronica (3rd officer). Reuters reported Italian judicial sources commenting that none is likely to go to jail as in Italy sentences under 2 years are usually suspended, and longer sentences is possible to be appealed or replaced with community service. The ship’s Captain was next – his trial was adjourned after he requested electrical tests to be conducted on the wreckage.
- (September 17, 2013) the vessel’s uprighting was accomplished. The ship was stable on its artificially made seabed. The so called “parbuckling” operation started on September 16th at ~9 am, and was completed in 20 hours. All 22 hydraulic pumps were used to raise the ship.
- (October 10, 2013) – the “winterization” plan. Salvage workers started securing the shipwreck for the winter of 2013. Bad weather conditions required the following procedures: 1) The ship’s bow was secured from moving via an additional stopping system. 2) An additional set of grout bags were installed between the ship and the island rocks. 3) The ship was connected by tube-shaped structures to all the 6 underwater platforms and was additionally attached to the sponsons tops. The sponsons were prepared in the Genoa and Livorno shipyards. The sponsons’ positioning was scheduled for April 2014.
- (December 2013) The salvage operation’s chief engineer Porcellacchia announced that the wreckage will be removed from the disaster site and towed in June 2014.
February 1, 2014 (Giglio, Italy) – a Spanish diver died during salvage works. He worked for UCS (Underwater Contractors Spain). He was involved in an underwater operation when slashed his leg on a metal sheet. A fellow diver brought the injured man alive to the surface, but he later died. Divers were working to attach 30 massive tanks with air to the ship so that she could be lifted off the seabed.
Costa Concordia and the Mafia
The UK’s “The Independent” (using materials from the Italian online news media “La Repubblica”) reported in March 2015, that the cruise ship Costa Concordia was carrying, quote, “huge shipment of Mafia-owned cocaine” during the unfortunate cruise disaster in 2012.
The “Concordia Mafia Drug” story was based on tape recordings of communications between Calabrian Mafia members. They revealed that the Ndrangheta syndicate had hidden large quantity of cocaine aboard the Costa cruise ship. The incident was part of the Mafia’s Transatlantic cocaine-traffic business. According to Italian investigators, drugs were stowed on the ship most likely by crew members.
After the sinking accident, the Captain Schettino’s hair was tested positive for cocaine. In mid March 2015 was reported 3 crew members arrests on Costa Pacifica. The arrests were done upon disembarkation, and for possession of over 16 kg / 35 pounds of cocaine. The drug bust was made in Malaga, Spain, where the Costa Cruises Pacifica ship was docked after its Transatlantic repositioning crossing from South America to Europe (Mediterranean). Curious fact is, that the police investigation said the drug cartel uses for its trafficking operations also MSC and NCL cruise ships on Transatlantic crossings between Europe and Caribbean, North and South America.
Costa Cruises chose the Dockwise company to be responsible for the removal of the Concordia wreckage. Dockwise is a Bermuda-based holding (a branch of Boskalis) specializing in marine transport, including “Oil and Gas” services. Royal Boskalis is a Netherlands-based marine company, and one of the world’s leading providers of dredging services.
Dockwise Vanguard lift ship contracted by Costa Crociere
On October 10, 2013, the Costa company took an US$30 million (~Euro 22 mill) wreck removal option with Dockwise for using its heavy lift marine vessel “Dockwise Vanguard”. This was an alternative to the conventional towing.
Dockwise Vanguard is a huge semi-submersible lift ship – and the world’s largest of its kind ever built. Dockwise Vanguard ship is able to lift and carry heavyweight cargoes of up to 110,000 tons. The ship was initially designed to load and move offshore marine facilities of the oil and gas industry. This lift ship is also capable of carrying other ships, and providing services as an offshore dry-docking operations facility.
Some of the Dockwise Vanguard ship statistics are:
- weight (116173 tonnes)
- length overall (275 m / 902 ft)
- width (79 m / 259 ft)
- combined power (27000 kW, which is 36207,6 in HP)
- speed (when unloaded: 26 kmh / 16 mph, and when loaded: 24 kmh / 15 mph)
- operational crew is only 40.
The list of removal operation’s steps included:
- The Vanguard ship’s ballast tanks to be filled with seawater, causing it to partially submerge.
- The cruise ship wreck to be pulled over the Dockwise lift vessel.
- The Vanguard’s ballast tanks then to be emptied (water pumped out) thus lifting up and transporting the wreckage safely.
Last voyage – the float out
The Concordia towing operation was planned for July 22, 2014. The cruise ship’s last journey ended in Genoa, on July 27, 2014. During her “last voyage”, Concordia was accompanied by a fleet of 14 marine vessels. It included two tug boats towing from the front. They both were attached to the ship by 70 mm / 2,8″ chains. The group’s leader was the Blizzard tug operated by cap.
The leading tug boats were towing the floating wreckage from a 700-800 m distance, at a fixed speed of 2,5 kn (4,6 kph / 3 mph). The cruise ship’s last ever “crew” on board included salvage operation experts and some environmentalists from Greenpeace. The last voyage was from the accident site (Giglio island) to the scrapping yard in Genoa. This was done in 4 days, covering a distance of ~280 km / 170 ml. In Genoa the ship will be dismantled – and hopefully forgotten. The materials will be sold as scrap.
The ship’s towing to Genoa
- On July 27, 2014:, the wrecked cruise ship Concordia entered the Genoa port. The 3-year operation was one of the world’s biggest maritime salvage operations ever.
- Next step is the ship’s dismantling, scrapping and recycling in accordance with the Italy’s Ministry of Environment prescriptions. This operation is expected to take ~22 months. The transfer of the ship ownership (from Costa to the Saipem consortium) was signed on July 27 at 3:40 pm.
- On the above YouTube video by AP you can see the saddest cruise ship you will ever meet at sea – the Concordia wreckage in motion, for the last time, sailing to her grave.
- According to Costa Crociere, the removal operation’s total cost soared up to Euro 1,5 billion or GBP 1,2 billion or USD 2 billion. This is nearly the combined building cost of both Royal Caribbean ships Allure and Oasis.
- Was this so unbelievably stupid ship disaster really an accident? How about the plausible hypothesis of a stock market game, or an industry’s global media publicity game? With this USD 2 billion “scrapping budget” you could do so much more to benefit the human kind, so much more for the Nature itself. Yet, it’s pretty small money if you want to introduce cruising to 5+ billion people worldwide – continuously, for a period of 2 years. Or if the name of the game is buying out cheap Carnival cruise shares from the general shareholders.
- Still, it could be simply the accident that became a profitable business for the big players. Excepting, of course, the ship insurance companies.
The Costa Concordia accident was a triple disaster. So many lives were lost. The cruise industry suffered a bad publicity. And a bunch of money was wasted on a grandeous salvage – money that could have been spent on building a brand new cruise vessel. This is also the worst cruise ship accident of all times – simply because all that happened started with a stupidity.