Efforts to clear the mess that is the sunken Italian cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, continue with the latest news being all 17 tanks have had their oil safely removed. As of March 24 Smit Salvage was moving on to clearing the ocean floor of debris.
Italian Civil Defense officials, charged with the operation to clean up, and ultimately remove, the 114,500 gross tonnage ship, made the announcement on Saturday. The Costa Concordia sunk just off the Island of Giglio in the Tuscan Bay and the area is a marine sanctuary replete with dolphins, whales, porpoises and sharks, and other marine life, and a spill of any size would have been catastrophic.
Smit Salvage worked "around the clock"
The operation to remove the oil could not begin until the hunt for survivors was over and when the time came, in late-January, they had to wait two weeks for bad weather to subside, all the time fearful the ship, resting on a rocky bed, might shift and make oil removal more difficult. They got going in mid-February, working, as a Smit Salvage company official said "around the clock."
In total they removed some 500,000 gallons of oil, 2,300 tonnes of heavy fuel and 200 tonnes of diesel fuel. While waiting for the search for survivors to end, Smit Salvage, a Dutch company, prepared the fuel tanks for extraction, their divers marking drilling locations and placing 'hot tap valves' on oil tanks.
Debris from Costa Concordia on Ocean floor
The next step for Smit Salvage, along with another company, Tito Nero, is to clear debris from the ocean floor around the Costa Concordia. There will be ships involved with equipment to purify the water around the liner. After that is done, work will begin on removing the ship itself.
It's not yet known who will be hired to achieve the removal, a job expected to take up to one year. Smit Salvage, with its parent company, Royal Boskalis Westminster, are one of six companies to submit a proposal. Their proposal is to refloat the ship, something they've successfully achieved in the past, while other proposals would see the Costa Concordia broken up and removed piecemeal.
There were over 4200 passengers and crew on the cruise ship and it is believed 32 died. Earlier this week 5 more bodies were found, all outside the ship trapped between the hull and the seabed, bringing the total number of bodies recovered to 30.