Spearheaded by a team from Titan Salvage in Pompano Beach, the epic feat to upright the Costa Concordia cruise ship laying semi-submerged off the coast of Italy is expected to take place Monday.
Project engineers are expected to begin the rotating the shipwreck into an upright position — a process called "parbuckling" — at 6 a.m. local time on Monday. However, given the threat of bad weather, a final decision on the start of the operations will be announced Sunday by 2 p.m.
The effort to right and refloat the ship originally expected to be done by mid-January, has run into delays due to weather and time spent revising technical elements of the plan.
Still, Titan officials were optimistic Friday.
"It's been 15 months and we've looked at every contingency possible and we feel confident Monday will be successful," said Rich Habib, Titan's managing director via phone from Italy. "The team is very excited."
"I'm sure people will be interested to finally see the ship uprighted," said Stewart Chiron, a South Florida-based cruise specialist and president/CEO of CruiseGuy.com. "Removing it from the waters will help the people living in Giglio Island to get life back to normal."
For nearly two years, the Concordia has been laying in waters off Giglio where it overturned Jan. 13, 2012 after hitting underwater rocks. The 951-foot, 114,500-ton ship had more than 4,000 passengers and crew aboard when the catastrophe occurred. Thirty two people were killed but two bodies remain missing, presumably still entombed in the shipwreck.
The complexities, engineering, manpower and machinery involved in the operations, makes it one of the "largest salvage project that's ever been done," according to Nick Sloane, Titan's senior salvage master overseeing the job.
In the past year, more than 400 Titan-Micoperi crew members have worked in shifts around the clock to prepare the ship and its surroundings for the mammoth task.
That work has included stabilizing the wreck, attaching watertight chambers called caissons to the ship's side that's above water, and building an underwater platform for the ship to rest on, once upright.
Divers have pumped 18,000 metric tons of cement into bags below the ship to support it and prevent it from breaking up in an operation which is expected to last 8-10 hours and is part of a salvage operation estimated to cost at least $300 million.
A buoyancy device acting "like a neck brace for an injured patient" will hold together the ship's bow, and fishing nets will catch debris as it rises from beneath the ship, Sloane said.
Once upright, the salvage team will go through the ship cabin by cabin and hand over items found on board to the Italian state prosecutor, and the vessel will be towed away to be dismantled.
Four Concordia crew members and a Costa official were sentenced to jail in July for their part in the accident, meanwhile the ship's captain Francesco Schettino is on trial for manslaughter and causing the loss of the ship.
For project updates, visit theparbucklingproject.com.
Information from Reuters was used in this report