Video: This time-lapse video, by the Associated Press, shows the 19-hour effort to right the Costa Concordia condensed into 1:23 minutes.
As the wreckage of the Costa Concordia stirred from its resting place off the coast of Giglio Island, Italy, for the first time since the infamous crash last year, the world watched with rapt attention to see if the engineering team’s months of planning would pay off.
After hours of carefully rotating the ship horizontally off of the reef, the cruise ship finally came to rest upright on a constructed platform — a remarkable success for the 500-strong international team of engineers that included a Canadian robotics company from Waterloo, Ont.
“To see the ship upright after it’s been lying on its side and to think of all the engineering effort that has gone into getting where we are today is rather incredible,” says Jason Gillham, CEO of 2G Robotics, the company in charge of providing 3D imaging of the ship’s hull during the salvage.
Using a unique underwater laser imaging process, Gillham and his team provided the initial scans of the ship’s hull back in June that will help engineers attach sponsons — flotation boxes — onto the ship without it sustaining further damage.
Following the success of this week’s parbuckling, 2G Robotics’ project lead Hubert Palej is now stationed over in Italy for the next stages of the salvage process.
“This is the first time an underwater laser scanning process has taken place to assist in attaching sponsons in a major salvage operation,” Gillham says.
2G Robotics uses high-powered underwater lasers that collect data to create what Gillham calls “point clouds.” These clouds are composed of data points marked on X, Y and Z axes which, when analyzed as a whole, accurately define the surface of whatever is being scanned.
In the case of the Costa Concordia, this 3D mapping was used to scan the ship’s bow-thruster tubes to map their precise geometry following the crash in order to ensure that engineers could safely attach necessary components without the ship breaking apart.
While sonar is typically used for this kind of hull mapping during salvage, underwater laser scanning yields images with much greater detail and accuracy, explains Gillham — something that is essential when attempting salvage on the scale of the Costa Concordia.
Now that the ship is upright, the next stage of the salvage process for 2G Robotics is to survey the ship’s starboard hull — the side crushed against the reef — to determine how and where the sponsons will be attached before it can be floated and towed away for scrapping.
Ensuring the structural integrity of the hull, says Gillham, is very important to the operation given the ecological sensitivity of Giglio’s reefs.
“The ship is in an environmentally sensitive area and so it’s because of that that they need to be moving ahead with absolute confidence and the need to have success at all stages,” Gillham says.
So far so good, it would seem, as there have not been any reports so far of leaks from the ship or the presence of pollutants in the water.
2G Robotics began selling their unique laser scanners in 2010 and have since sold more than 30 systems around the world. While the technology can be used to scan anything from coral reefs to shipwrecks, Gillham says the scope of this project and the media attention it has garnered make this salvage unlike anything his company has been involved with.
“Many subsea projects and projects that are one of a kind draw on the best of the best from around the world,” says Gillham. “To be considered a part of that and to be involved in the project is quite a step for our small company from Ontario.”