The Salvage of the Costa Concordia

The Salvage of the Costa Concordia

Our Sales Director, Andy Venn, talks about one of FoundOcean’s more unusual projects, when we were called in to help with the salvage operation of a stricken cruise liner.


We will all remember the headlines earlier this year, when a very long, very large vessel, the Ever Given, loaded with freight, became stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking a number of other large cargo ships and creating a complete bottleneck. It caused considerable disruption to goods being delivered in the international supply chain, as this is one of the busiest trade routes in the world. The salvage operation took almost a week and was coordinated by “veteran salvage master” Captain Nick Sloane. The same gentleman was also notably in charge of re-floating the Costa Concordia, a salvage operation from almost ten years ago now, in which FoundOcean played a significant part.

Costa Concordia: What happened?

On 13 January 2012, an Italian cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, capsized. The ship had hit rocks off the coast of Giglio Island as a result of a deviation from its planned course not long after setting sail. The vessel immediately started taking on water and listing on its side. Almost 4,200 people were rescued, but, heartbreakingly, 32 people died.

The importance of removing the vessel

On top of the human cost of the tragedy, it was also necessary to consider the potential damage to the environment. Giglio Island is situated in a protected marine area and the wreck of the Costa Concordia was precariously balanced on the edge of an underwater cliff. This led to concerns that the ship could fall and break up, potentially leading to an oil spill. The first step in minimising any environmental damage was undertaken in February and March 2012, when salvage workers removed over 2,000 tonnes of fuel.

It was then important to consider how best to remove the beached vessel from the water. This was no mean feat. At the time of its launch, the Costa Concordia was Italy’s largest cruise ship, measuring 951 feet and weighing 114,000 tonnes. The ship needed to be righted from its position listing on its side in order to be able to float, so that it could be towed away and safely dismantled. This process had to be carefully planned and executed. Despite the removal of the fuel, rotting food, passengers’ belongings and furniture still posed a contamination risk to the surrounding environment. The salvage effort was a joint venture between several companies, and FoundOcean played a substantial part.

How did FoundOcean help?

Much of our work is related to the energy industry, but our grouting expertise has also helped considerably with other unique projects. The salvage operation of the Costa Concordia is one such instance. Our board director at the time of these events, Rolando Polli, said “FoundOcean is honoured to be able to apply its subsea grouting experience to this important and sensitive project.”

We started working at the wreck removal site in October 2012 and applied our combination of thorough planning and project management, skilled and safety-conscious personnel, innovative mixing equipment and meticulous quality assurance testing to this project.

FoundOcean designed, manufactured and grouted 1,200 fabric formworks. These were similar to standard pipeline freespan correction grout bags and were placed and grouted in situ to form a large embankment under the ship. We have considerable expertise with custom formworks, even holding the record for deploying the deepest fabric formworks at a depth of 1,370m. Once the formwork embankment was completed, grout mattresses were installed on top, filled in the same way as the formworks. The grout mattresses provided a flat and stable surface for the ship’s hull to rest upon once it was rolled upright. We also carried out foundation grouting on six subsea steel support platforms, another critical part of the up-righting process. In total, 20,000 tonnes of cement were used for the project. The ship was then rolled upright from its beached position onto the formworks.  Once upright, floatation tanks were attached and the ship was towed away for dismantling.

All of our grout bags, each weighing up to 70 tonnes, were lifted back out of the sea and taken ashore to be processed and recycled. The seabed was able to be returned to its original condition, fulfilling the environmental requirements of the project. The removal of the ship, and our formworks, meant nature could recover from the impact of the Costa Concordia disaster. Our expertise in design and the execution of our grout work contributed significantly to the successful salvage operation, which reached completion in 2014.

In June of the following year, we felt very humbled and honoured to receive an award for the part we had played in this project, the prestigious “Designed in Thames Valley” Award at the Institute of Civil Engineers’ (ICE) Regional Awards. The judges said: “FoundOcean’s design and installation in a unique environment and under the eye of the world’s media made this a worthy winner.”

Suzanne Moroney, Regional Director of ICE South East England, commented:

“FoundOcean’s grouting was essential in the removal of the ship from the coast and, what’s more, the team achieved this feat of engineering whilst taking active consideration to protect the wildlife and habitats around the ship.”

For more information on FoundOcean’s experience and capabilities, contact the team on +44 1506 440330 or email

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