NEW: "It was exactly as the plan said it would be," the senior salvage master says
The Costa Concordia righted in "perfect operation," the technical team's chief says
It's a massive undertaking that had never been done with such a large ship
Two bodies are believed to be in or near the wreckage
Engineers succeeded Tuesday in righting the Costa Concordia cruise liner off the Italian island of Giglio, where it had capsized when it ran aground in January 2012, killing dozens of people.
“She is standing upright better than anyone thought she would be,” said Nick Sloane, the senior salvage master, about the vessel three football fields in length. “When she started moving, she moved slowly but surely. There was no twisting at all. It was exactly as the plan said it would be.”
In an unprecedented and painstaking process that involved massive pulleys, cables and steel tanks, the 500-person salvage crew from 26 countries rolled the 114,000-ton vessel off the rocks on which it had rested since it ran aground.
“It was a perfect operation, I would say,” said Franco Porcellacchia, the head of the technical team for the cruise line Costa Crochiere, owned by American firm Carnival Cruises.
The effort began at 9 a.m. Monday. By midnight, despite delays caused by thunderstorms and the need to tighten a slack cable, the ship had been hauled off the rocks and upward about 25 degrees. That was far enough for the salvage crew to start drawing water into massive steel boxes attached to the exposed side of the hull and then use the weight of that water to finish rolling the hulk onto a steel platform built off the sea floor.
Four hours later, the wrecked ship was resting on the platform, said Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy’s Civil Protection Authority. Once the ship was righted, a slashing, diagonal line could be seen separating the white paint of the exposed hull from the brownish muck that had collected on its starboard side.