Costa Concordia salvage work to begin

Salvage work is expected to begin on the Costa Concordia as the owner looks at pumping oil from the stricken ship off the Italian coast to avert an environmental disaster.

上海性息

The chief executive of Carnival Corporation has expressed sadness over the death of five additional passengers.

“We are deeply saddened by the reports of additional deaths following the grounding of the Costa Concordia,” chief executive Micky Arison said in a statement on Tuesday.

“On behalf of the entire Carnival Corporation & PLC team, I offer our heartfelt condolences to all of those families affected by this tragedy.”

The Costa Concordia ran aground late on Friday off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, with the death toll now at 11 and 24 people missing.

REMOVAL OF FUEL ‘A PRIORITY’

A Dutch shipwreck salvage firm said it would take its engineers and divers two to four weeks to extract the 1.8 million litres of fuel aboard the ship.

The safe removal of the fuel has become a priority second only to finding the missing, as the wreckage site lies in a maritime sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises and whales.

Preliminary phases of the fuel extraction could begin as early as Wednesday if approved by Italian officials, the company said.

Mediterranean waters in the area were relatively calm on Tuesday with waves just 30-centimetres high, but they were expected to reach nearly 1.8 metres on Wednesday, according to meteorological forecasts.

NO LEAKAGE

Smit, based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, said no fuel had leaked and the ship’s tanks appeared intact. While there is a risk the ship could shift in larger waves, it has so far been relatively stable perched on top of rocks near Giglio’s port.

Smit’s operations manager, Kees van Essen, said the company was confident the fuel could safely be extracted using pumps and valves to vacuum the oil out to waiting tanks.

“But there are always environmental risks in these types of operations,” he told reporters.

The company said any discussion about the fate of the ship – whether it is removed in one piece or broken up – would be decided by Costa Crociere and its insurance companies.

SHARES PLUNGED

Shares of the company, which is the parent of cruise operator Costa, fell 14 per cent to $US29.60 in New York on Tuesday, the first day of trading since the ship ran aground off the coast of Italy over the weekend. Markets had been closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.

Meanwhile, environment group WWF has called for new rules aimed at avoiding a repeat of the tragedy, which has taken place in a sanctuary for whales and dolphins.

Italian Environment Minister Corrado Clini said no fuel had been seen flowing into the sea from the wreck, but added that it was a danger to the environment and that fuel must be quickly pumped off.