Costa Concordia: Defueling Nearly Completed, Next Phase Begins


Photo by Susan J. Young

UPDATE: Five more bodies have been found at the shipwreck site of Costa Concordia near Giglio, Italy, according to the Italian Civil Protection agency that's coordinating search operations. Read Travel Agent's story on the discovery here.

Costa Crociere

, the municipality of

Giglio Island

and the

Costa Concordia Emergency Commissioner’s Office

announced that operations by the

Neri/Smit Salvage

team to remove fuel from the stricken ship are nearly completed.

Defueling operations began on Feb. 12 and are expected to finish by Friday night March 23.

In a multimillion-dollar operation, Neri/Smit Salvage used a system of pumps and valves to remove the fuel. “Hot tap” valves were attached to the side of the ship, a hole was drilled into the tank and a pipeline was attached.

This enabled the oil to be heated and pumped out while seawater was pumped in to maintain the ship’s stability.

Minimal amounts of fuel cannot be pumped out of the bulkheads of the tanks, but Costa said they pose no significant environmental risk.

“After the tragic incident involving the Costa Concordia we took immediate action to guarantee the least possible environmental impact and protect the environment of Giglio and the island’s economy and tourism industry, working productively and in full cooperation with the Emergency Commissioner’s Office and the Municipality of Giglio,” said Costa Crociere S.p.A. President Gianni Onorato. “We appointed the world’s leading salvage company to carry out the defueling operation, and this has been done successfully, preventing a potential ecological disaster.”
Onorato said that Costa Crociere is pleased with the results, and the company will continue to work with the same commitment during the next stages of the salvage mission until all the necessary operations are completed.
“The reliability and expertise of our company are shown by the professionalism with which we manage projects like this one,” said Onorato. “I wish to reiterate that the Costa Concordia incident was a one-off extraordinary event, extremely serious but unrepeatable, and I wish to express our condolences to the families of the victims and our closeness to all the people who suffered because of this incident.”
“We have observed and monitored the total commitment of all the parties involved in the efforts to prevent even the slightest environmental impact on the island and today we can see that our optimism was not misplaced,” said the Mayor of Giglio Sergio Ortelli.
“The fact that the various operations and measures have been jointly agreed and implemented has enabled us to achieve what is a great result for the future of Giglio Island," said Ortelli. "We cannot forget the tragedy that occurred here and our thoughts are continuously with the families of the people who died or are missing.
“At the same time, the efficiency and effectiveness of the response to the emergency, combined with the fact that the daily analysis conducted by ARPAT and ISRA has confirmed that our waters are still crystalline, means that we can now look to the future with greater peace of mind,” Ortelli stressed.
The people of Giglio are confident, continued Ortelli, that the next stage of the salvage operation, which will be more complex, will be handled with the same team spirit that has emerged to date and that this will lead to the same positive result that is the common goal. He added: “I wish to thank the inhabitants of Giglio, who, at such a difficult time, have shown a tremendous sense of responsibility.”
Preparations for the ship's final removal from Giglio are under way. Six working plans for removal of the ship were submitted by salvage companies by March 3.
Costa is now developing a "short" list from the best plans, and will announce its selection in early- to mid-April.
In the interim, Costa said it's now focusing on "caretaking" operations, which will take one to two months. During this time, Neri/Smit Salvage technical staff appointed by Costa Crociere will monitor and protect the environment as well clean the seabed and the area around the hull. 
Costa said all the salvage plans submitted prioritize the need to minimize the environmental impact, protect Giglio’s economy and tourism industry, and guarantee safety.
The operation to remove the wreck is expected to take from 10 to 12 months, depending on which plan is chosen, according to Costa.

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