Dutch company trying to avert Mediterranean oil spill

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Dutch salvage company Smit has begun siphoning off heavy fuel from the tanks of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which stranded off the Italian coast a month ago. The salvage workers were forced to wait until now because heavy seas prevented them from tackling the complicated job. Pumping will continue around the clock while the weather is favourable.

Smit's aim is to prevent an environmental disaster by removing the oil. Marine life in the area around the ship includes dolphins, whales and harbour porpoises.

Fifteen tanks in the hull of the Costa Concordia hold 2,300 tonnes of diesel fuel. The Italian authorities estimated that it would take 28 days to empty the vessel of its fuel.

Heated
Two additional ships are needed for the operation. One is a floating crane which will be moored alongside the Costa Concordia, and on the other side of the crane will be an empty oil tanker to store the fuel removed from the stranded cruise ship. As a first step the fuel in the Costa Concordia will be heated to reduce its viscosity. Once it is warm enough, it will be possible to pump the fuel into the oil storage ship.

Chaos
The Italian cruise ship ran aground on Friday 13 January off the island of Giglio. The captain allegedly sailed the ship irresponsibly close to the shore. Seventeen people were killed in the incident, while 15 people are still missing.

Captain Francesco Schettino was arrested immediately after the tragedy and is currently under house arrest. Italian TV station TG5 recently broadcast a remembrance service for the victims, followed by new video images of the disaster day, illustrating the chaos and indecisiveness prevailing on the bridge of the ship when it hit the rocks.

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