Whitby men help with cruise ship clean-up

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A TEAM which includes a number of Whitby residents is helping to clear up one of the biggest maritime disasters in living memory.

The Costa Concordia cruise ship partly sank in January with the loss of 32 lives after hitting a reef and capsizing near the island of Giglio off the west coast of Italy .

Now Dalby Offshore Limited, which is based in Beverley, East Yorkshire and whose owner Captain Stuart McNiven lives in the Whitby area, has been awarded a multi-million dollar contract to be part of an international team that will salvage and raise the ill-fated ship.

23-year-old Rich Straw from Whitby is a deckhand on board the Pioneer, a Dalby Offshore vessel that is currently stationed at the scene. He said: “I like being part of something this big and for Dalby, as a local medium sized local company , to be involved is amazing. It’s nice to think we are helping to get the Concordia removed and playing a part in the operation.”

The project to salvage and raise the Costa Concordia is expected to be completed in mid 2013, and the overall removal costs are estimated at $500m. A International team of 500 are currently on site and many specialist Companies are involved.

Work has begun to remove the tons of rocky reef embedded into the Concordia’s hull, a first step in plans to eventually tow the wreck away from the island.

Mark Staveley works as a deck foreman on board the Pioneer and said: “I’ve been working for Dalby Offshore on the ASV Pioneer for over a year now - it’s a relatively new company with big potential. Dalby are not only loyal to their employees but also to small local businesses. For example, the meat is supplied on to the Pioneer from Radford’s butchers in Whitby. Fabraweld from Scarborough have undertaken work on the Pioneer, as well as Hydrahose, a local hydraulic hose repair firm, who service the Whitby areas. Working on the Concordia project will be exciting and a good experience. The management team have done a really fantastic job to get this contract and I’m sure there will be many more good opportunities on the back of this one”

The Pioneer has been on the scene since mid-October and is a vital component of the operation to free the Costa Concordia from the reef. It will produce 30,000 tonnes of grout/cement which will be placed below the vessel in bags in order to stabilise it before the vessel is hauled upright on to a steel platform before finally been floated off.

Dalby specialises in working with major offshore renewable energy projects. Over the last year, it has made a £10m investment in a fleet of high specification crew transfer vessels and other assets and many of the crew on these vessels are from the Yorkshire and Humber area. The company is active on numerous offshore windfarms in the North Sea and hopes to be one of the main players when Offshore Wind arrives off the Yorkshire coast in the next year. They plan to operate and service vessels out of Whitby as well as offer lots of employment opportunities for local residents.

In September, court-appointed experts blamed the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship for the disaster.

They also found fault with the crew and ship owner for a series of blunders, delays and security breaches. Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of causing the shipwreck, manslaughter and abandoning the ship before all passengers were evacuated.