Work has begun on efforts to extract over 500,000 gallons of fuel which remain on the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner. The ship ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio on January 13th in a tragedy which claimed 32 lives – rescue efforts ceased with 15 of those individuals still unaccounted for. Salvage crews from Dutch maritime specialist, SMIT, expect to spend the next 28 days working with Italian firm Neri to pump fuel from the vessel’s 15 tanks in an effort to reduce chances of further environmental disaster and move towards removing the cruise liner from the Mediterranean Sea.
Giglio’s mayor Sergio Ortelli was quick to refer to the disaster as an ecological time bomb, and within days of the disaster booms were placed around the stricken ship in an effort to dampen the environmental impact. The pumping efforts begin as reports surface that fuel has begun to leak from the cruise liner, alongside a multitude of other toxic pollutants, including detergents, paints, solvents, chlorinated swimming pool water and over 1,300 gallons of olive oil. The pristine waters of Giglio are part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, which includes natural habitat for hundreds of species of animals, including the Critically Endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal.
Smit will use a technique known as hot-tapping to remove the huge quantity of fuel. The technique involves cutting a hole directly into the tanks of the vessel, onto a which a valve will be attached, “followed by a pipe and a heater that shoot hot water into the boat, thereby replacing the oil that is sent up through the pipe to a Smit salvage ship, and from there into an oil tanker.” This technique is being used so as to reduce risks that the ship could move during the course of rescue efforts and sink further into the Sea.
Once all fuel has been removed from the ship, efforts will begin to refloat the 114,500 ton cruise ship. It is expected that the work will take between seven and ten months to complete.
Images via Wikimedia Commons