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As Concordia fuel removal wraps up, focus turns to site ‘caretaking’

As Concordia fuel removal wraps up, focus turns to site ‘caretaking’
Costa Crociere announced the Costa Concordia wreck will be emptied of fuel by Friday night. The operation, conducted by a salvage team put together by SMIT Salvage and Tito Neri, began on Feb. 2, stopping only when sea and weather conditions inhibited safety.

As the multimillion-euro fuel-removal operation, involving 20 marine vessel and 100 staff, draws to a close, Costa is now evaluating six rival bids from leading salvage companies for the removal of the wreck, a complex process that the company said is likely to take 10 to 12 months.

The company said a short-list is being drawn up and the best plan will be selected and announced in early to mid-April. It added that all six plans ‘prioritise the need to minimise the environmental impact, protect Giglio’s economy and tourism industry, and guarantee safety.’

In the meantime, the next one to two months will be occupied with ‘caretaking,’ with the SMIT/Neri team cleaning substantial quantities of debris from the wreck from the seabed and the area around the hull.

Costa said the almost 2,400 cubic metres of fuel were removed using ‘hot-tap’ valves attached to the side of the ship. These allowed the fuel to be heated and pumped out as sea water was pumped in to maintain the ship’s stability. The fuel remaining on board was insufficient to pose any significant risk, the company claimed.

In a statement, Costa president Gianni Onorato and Sergio Ortelli, mayor of Giglio, expressed sympathy with the victims while taking pains to stress the success of the defueling exercise, their confidence in the safe removal of the wreck, and their belief in Giglio’s future as a touristic destination.

Onorato described the disaster as ‘a one-off freak event, extremely serious but unrepeatable,’ adding that the success of the defueling operation led by SMIT was evidence of ‘the reliability and expertise of our company.’ Ortelli, whose island is highly dependent on tourism, stressed that ‘our waters are still crystalline.’