Concordia, by the numbers

By Tom Stieghorst

Although I’m loath to admit it, numbers can tell a story just as effectively as words sometimes. Or images.

We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. So when it comes to the Costa Concordia, the image of the ship being towed to Genoa, Italy, next week will go further than any number of words in showing that the ship is at last floating again and on its way to oblivion.

More intriguing are the numbers. In a graphic compiled by CNN from numbers released by the Costa Concordia’s builder, Fincantieri, and the salvage consortium Titan Micoperi, some numbers are juxtaposed, making for several eye-opening stories.

First are the dollars. Costa CEO Michael Thamm said this week the meter on the Concordia accident has reached 1.5 billion euros, including the cost of demolition and recycling over the next two years. That’s about $2.04 billion at current exchange rates.

According to the CNN graphic, the Concordia took about $612 million to build. By that math, recovering the wrecked Concordia cost more than three times the price of building the new Concordia. Somewhere there’s a lesson there about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.*TomStieghorst

Likewise, the numbers show it took about 20 months to build the 114,000-ton ship at Fincantieri back in 2004, but will take about 54 months, or four-and-a-half years from the time of the accident, to remove and unbuild it.

The graphic shows a loss of 12,000 tourists since the accident in the island of Giglio, but I think that’s misleading. Most of the tourists lost were likely Italians or Europeans from other nearby countries.

The Concordia accident, for better or worse, made Giglio nearly a household name in countries around the world that never heard of it before. I think over the long term it may lead to more tourism, despite the short-term losses.

Another story told through numbers appears dramatic but again is misleading. Of the 500 people who worked on the salvage team, fewer than 12 were locals, according to the graphic.

I have no idea how that count was made, or if it is accurate, but I do know that salvage work of the magnitude involved in raising the Concordia requires world-class expertise, and is not the kind of thing where local hiring outreach makes a lot of sense.

Another set of numbers is also about people: 3,200 passengers, 32 killed, one missing. With that there can be no argument.

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