Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cruise News: Costa Concordia Defueling Operations Conclude; ‘Caretaking’ Operations Commence

Costa Crociere, the municipality of Giglio Island and the Costa Concordia Emergency Commissioner’s Office announce that the operations to remove the fuel from Costa Concordia have successfully been completed.

Defueling operations, which were carried out by experts from the Neri/Smit Salvage team hired by Costa Crociere, began at 5 p.m. Feb. 12 and continued around the clock whenever sea and weather conditions were favorable. The removal of the fuel from 17 tanks of the ship will be completed by Friday night March 23. The operations 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 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. 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.”

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. “I wish to thank the inhabitants of Giglio, who, at such a difficult time, have shown a tremendous sense of responsibility,” he said.

Costa Crociere made a multimillion-euro investment in defueling operations, with the primary focus on removing the fuel from the ship as quickly and cleanly as possible. Now that the fuel has been successfully pumped out of the tanks, and ahead of finalization of the wreck removal plan, attention is now focused on “caretaking” operations. The intention is to guarantee environmental monitoring and protection with the assistance of experts using dedicated means and resources, and to clean up the seabed and the area around the hull. Caretaking will be conducted by Neri/Smit Salvage technical staff appointed by Costa Crociere and will last one to two months.

As previously announced, regarding removal of the ship, the six working plans submitted by the March 3 deadline are being evaluated. A short list is being developed and the best plan will be selected and announced in early to mid April. All of the 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.

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