Costa Concordia Sets Sail For Genoa With Convoy Of Vessels

The Costa Concordia set sail for Genoa, Italy on Wednesday with a convoy of more than a dozen smaller vessels. The massive cruise liner will sail at just two knots per hour on its final 200-mile journey to reduce the stress on its damaged hull. It is expected to arrive at its final destination and go through a 22-month dismantling process.

Sirens and applause broke out from Giglio when the ship finally left the port after its voyage was cut short 30 months ago when the cruise liner ran aground near the Tuscan island, reports the Wall Street Journal. Small groups of onlookers climbed the rocks and stood in the port to watch the ship be dragged away.

Giglio’s normally lively tourism business was damaged by the presence of the Costa Concordia, which ran aground in January 2012. Many onlookers praised the more than 500 salvage workers who have spent countless hours getting the ship ready to leave the port.

The Concordia will travel at a snail’s pace to reduce the stress on the ship’s weakened hull to a minimum. If all goes as planned, the ship and its convoy will arrive in Genoa on Sunday.

Engineers and the salvage crew refloated the massive vessel last week, bringing back to the surface the lower 13 decks for the first time since the sinking happened. Deck 4, where most of the 32 victims died in the sinking, was among those that emerged in recent days.

BBC notes that the Costa Concordia is being kept upright and above the surface by giant buoyancy chambers. The vessel was hauled upright in September in the largest operation of its kind, but was still partially submerged and rested on six steel platforms until last week, when the buoyancy chambers were filled with pressurized air. The pressurization brought the ship’s submerged decks to the surface.

Little of the Concordia’s former glory remains, as the buoyancy chambers, called caissons, are attached to the hull on both sides. The part of the hull still visible is rusty and showing the effects of resting under water for so many months.

While some locals praised the ship’s departure, not everyone was nostalgic or in the mood to celebrate. Romina Brizzi, who could see the cruise ship from a window where she works, told reporters, “I’m not sorry to see the ship go, good riddance.”

Another resident, Filippo Di Cristina, added, “I’m living today like I did yesterday and like I will tomorrow. This is no big deal.”

While the ship is on its way to Genoa, French ecology minister Segolene Royal cautioned that the salvage can’t be considered a success until the Concordia arrives in port at Genoa. Residents on the island fear that any oil leak from the ship could cause significant environmental damage.

Investigators are still looking for the body of Indian waiter Russel Rebello, who remains the only victim of the Costa Concordia disaster whose remains have not been found.

[Image by ARPA Toscana]