Canadian robotics firm to help with Costa Concordia salvage mission this week
Published Sunday, September 15, 2013 7:32AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 15, 2013 10:45PM EDT
A Waterloo, Ont., robotics firm will lend its specialized skills to a multi-national salvage crew that has been given the green light to raise the beleaguered cruise ship Costa Concordia on Monday.
2G Robotics will provide critical data to help raise and remove the 115,000-ton cruise ship that made international headlines in January 2012, when it ran ashore near the Italian island of Giglio, killing 32 people.
"We have a very unique technology that really isn't matched anywhere else in the world in terms of its ability to capture very precise measurements underwater," founder and CEO Jason Gillham told CTV Kitchener.
Gillham and his team will provide an underwater scan and a very precise 3-D image of the damaged hull that is currently pushed up against the rocky reef so that engineers can attach floats in exactly the right locations to help raise the ship.
"Without this level of data, they can't have confidence and there is always an increased risk of further ecological damage to that area," Gillham said.
A salvage of this magnitude has never been attempted before.
Crews originally hoped to right the ship last spring but heavy storms forced the team to stop.
Authorities gave the go-ahead for the operation to start early Monday morning after favourable weather forecasts came in. The salvage is expected to take between 10 and 12 hours.
Currently the ship, which has a 70-metre-long gash in its hull, is partially submerged and in an environmentally sensitive area.
"It's absolutely critical that they get this ship out and that they do it in one piece without the ship falling apart," Gillham said.
"We've developed the underwater laser scanner to be very operable in the type of environment that things will be operated in."
Hubert Palej, project manager at 2G Robotics, visited the Italian site in July.
"The island (Giglio) itself is tropical, it's a paradise, and then you walk out onto the beach and you see this cruise liner, just sitting on the water, it just seems completely out of place," Palej said.
Mayor Sergio Ortelli has asked the 1,400 residents on Giglio island to remain patient. Ferries linking Giglio to the mainland will not run during the salvage operation.
There has been no major pollution reported around the island, which relies heavily on tourism. Fuel has already been siphoned off the ship and absorbent barriers have been set in place around the shipwreck as a safety precaution to contain any possible leaks.
The Canadian company will join 23 other nations as part of a 500-member salvage team that has been working for months to remove the capsized ship.
The salvage team will use a combination of crank-like pulleys, a series of massive steel chains, and tanks filled with water on the exposed side to roll the ship upright in a nautical manoeuvre known as parbuckling.
Once the ship is upright and raised off the rocks, it will be towed away and dismantled. The interior will be also searched again in hopes of finding the remains of two passengers who were never found once the ship is stablized.
Five employees of the cruise company that owned the Costa Concordia have already been found guilty of manslaughter; the ship’s captain is still on trial.
Head engineers overseeing the salvage admit that they have no "Plan B" and that this is a one-shot deal.
With a report from CTV Kitchener's Krista Simpson and files from The Associated Press
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