Italian Shipwreck Salvors Bring in Oil Spill Response Vessel, Double Booms

ROME, Italy, January 23, 2012 (ENS) – As the cruise ship Costa Concordia lies on its side on the shore of Giglio Island 10 days after striking a rock that gashed open her side, divers Sunday found two more bodies. Their recovery brings the death toll to 15, with 24 people still missing of the 4,200 passengers on board, which the massive ship ran aground on January 13.

Over the weekend, officials said it appears that unregistered guests were on board at the time of the accident, which means the number of people officially considered missing could rise.

The wreck of the Costa Concordia as seen from Giglio Island(Photo courtesy Environment Ministry of Italy)

The huge ship is grounded in an environmentally sensitive area of Tuscan Archipelago National Park, and Italian authorities today told the salvors to take additional precautions before taking an estimated 2,400 tons of fuel off the vessel.

Italy’s Council of Ministers Friday declared a state of emergency “for the sinking of the Concordia cruise ship near the island of Giglio” and appointed Franco Gabrielli, head of the National Civil Protection Department, as special commissioner for the emergency.

“Research and defueling of the Costa Concordia will go at once,” Gabrielli said, briefing reporters today.

The work of draining the fuel on the Costa Concordia will begin Tuesday, said Bart Huizing of Smit Salvage, the Dutch firm contracted by Costa Concordia owner Costa Cruises to handle salvaging the wreck.

Before Smit can remove oil from the ship, a double boom must be placed around the ship rather than the single oil containment boom that was planned, Gabrielli ordered.

The Costa Concordia wreck on the rocks of Giglio island (Photo courtesy Italy’s National Civil Protection Department)

The additional oil booms have been mobilized and upon arrival will need to be positioned and fixed down, Smit said today.

Smit also must position an emergency response oil removal vessel on site. For this purpose, Smit has mobilized an oil tanker with emergency response equipment including sweeping arms, booms and a skimmer. This vessel arrived today.

The additional precautions were ordered following the advice of a new Scientific and Technical Committee appointed by the government to help plan for salvage and environmental protection.

The committee includes technical experts from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Florence, the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics of Trieste, Smit Salvage, and Fincantieri, the company that designed the cruise ship.

Tests for water pollution surrounding the ship, made daily by the technicians of Tuscan Regional Agency for Environmental Protection, at the moment are negative, showing no critical values, according to the National Civil Protection Department.

Samples showed the presence of detergents and disinfectants, but not in such quantity as to arouse concern, the agency said.

Franco Gabrielli, center rear with glasses, presides over the new Technical and Scientific Committee, January 21, 2012 (Photo courtesy National Civil Protection Department)

Since January 21, Tuscan technicians have been joined by regional experts including engineers from dell’Arpat ISPRA, the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research. Commissioner Gabrielli has reiterated his willingness to step up the task of sampling and environmental monitoring, if necessary.

The country’s largest environmental group, Italia Nostra, which translates as Our Italy, has sent an appeal to President Giorgio Napolitano asking that large cruise ships be prevented from entering the Lagoon of Venice.

“The disaster of the great tourist ship Costa Concordia testifies, unfortunately at the cost of human lives, the unsustainability of a model of tourism that exploits and tramples on the beauties and cultural heritage of Italy and does not produce growth or welfare,” wrote Alessandra Mottola Molfino, head of Italia Nostra.

“These huge ships, in fact, for the sake of a few minutes to show their visitors the views of the islands of Tuscany and Venice not only endanger human lives but also our heritage of beauty and civilization. These monstrous floating cities pollute with their very presence, fumes and waste they generate, the seas and cities where they stay,” Molfino wrote.

Divers approach the wreck of the Costa Concordia (Photo courtesy National Civil Protection Department)

“Italy needs a different model of tourism more environmentally aware, more ‘beautiful, kind and gentle,’ which would lead the tourists to stay longer in Italy, not only in big cities. A sustainable and responsible tourism that will bring real and lasting jobs and economic and human growth,” wrote Molfino.

“What Our Italy asks is that good governance, concern for the interests of communities and the preservation of a precious and fragile environment, take over Venice and come at last to prevent the entry of huge ships into the lagoon,” she wrote.

Environment Minister Corrado Clini, speaking this morning in the morning in Milan at the Sustainability Day event, said he has exchanged letters with the president of the Port Authority of Venice, Paolo Costa, launching an operational design process to “liberate” the basin of St. Marco from the “floating condominiums,” the big cruise ships that “cross the heart of Venice.”

Alternatives have been identified in the short and long term to protect the unique environment and and architecture of the lagoon, while providing innovative and modern infrastructure in the cruise sector, Clini said.

He said that the government does not want “punitive action, but affirmative action to protect the environment and at the same time give added value to cruise traffic that is nourished by beauty.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.