Logo: University of Southern California

Learning by Salvaging

USC Viterbi graduate student Roland De Marco helps with the Costa Concordia salvage operation in Italy
BY: Katie McKissick
September 18, 2013 —
Costa Concordia
 The Costa Concordia, 2009. Photo by Cezary Piwowarski

After a rock cut a 53-meter-long gash in its hull, the Costa Concordia partially sank Jan. 13, 2012. There it still lies, resting on an underwater cliff off the edge of Isola del Giglio, Italy.

Titan Salvage is currently undertaking the more than $600 million salvage operation, and USC Viterbi green technology graduate student Roland De Marco has been helping with the project since January, when he started as an intern with the worldwide marine salvage and wreck removal company.

The salvage project is a multi-staged effort that won’t be complete until summer 2014. “First they’ll flip the ship over, and then next year they’re float it off and drag it away,” De Marco explained. The ship will start to be moved into an upright position Sept. 16, 2013.

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As part of his internship, De Marco, then an undergraduate student at the Webb Institute, did designs for systems that would help blow the water out of the ship and ballast it back up. After he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, Titan Salvage hired him full time. He spent this past summer at the wreckage site, helping commission and build the sponsons that will support the ship when it is floated back upright.

“I also designed a fire system so that when the ship is refloated it has a fire system in place with pumps, which also doubles as a cooling system for generators and compressors,” De Marco said.

Currently the salvage team is building winterization infrastructure so all the work from the summer will not be destroyed by the intense waves winter brings.

Costa 580

 The Costa Concordia salvage operation, images courtesty of Titan Salvage

Just starting his Master’s in Green Technologies, De Marco is looking forward to applying his experience from the Costa Concordia salvage project to his education and learning more about green technology. “I like USC; it’s an awesome school. That’s for sure."