Costa Concordia threat of oil spill

After the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia, while the hopes of finding missing persons are fading, the alarm now becomes pollution, and the risk of a massive environmental disaster. On the cruise ship there are 2,400 tons of oil that could spill if the hull were to break.

The area affected by the possible oil slick depends on the currents: the Island of Giglio, probably the whole archipelago, perhaps the coast.

The alarm comes from the Italian Minister of Environment Corrado Clini who said on Monday that the risk of an environmental disaster is becoming really high.

“If the weather and climate change we may find ourselves in a different situation and there is serious risk connected to the tightness of the hull. We’re trying to solve the situation as quickly as possible, considering that it is likely that there are still survivors to be saved.”

The ship has tanks full of fuel that is dense, heavy, and may sediment on the seabed. This could contaminate the coast and affect marine animals and birds.

The weather conditions are getting worst at the Giglio Island and the cruise ship has started moving. In this condition it is impossible for the scuba divers to search for the missing people and until there is hope to find someone alive the operation to remove the oil cannot start.

In fact to take out the fuel would be a difficult and could even move the ship that is already in an unsafe position.

Minister Clini has assured that all the equipment and the team responsible for emptying the ship are ready to start their work as soon as possible.

The extraction of fuel will be assigned to Smit, a company specialising in sea rescue. It will be using a technique called “hot tapping”, which provides a safe hole in the fuel tank from which to draw the oil in a range of time that could go from three to fifteen days.

After this operation the main problem will be to place the ship vertically, so it will be able to float again and can be taken to port, where the owner will decide whether to restore or demolish it.

Otherwise, if the operation fails, the ship will be dismantled piece by piece.

Italian environmental associations have asked the Minister to save the Natural Park of Argenatario where the ship is stranded and also for more restrictions for the cruise circulation.

This is the article I wrote for the news website of my university.

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