Residents on the island of Giglio, where cruise chip Costa Concordia ran aground more than two weeks ago, are growing concerned that the wreckage may not be removed until the end of the year.
The start of work to remove more than 2,000 tons of fuel from the vessel was delayed by rough weather this weekend. Only when most of the tanks have been emptied of diesel and heavy fuel oil can salvage experts take the next step – either to refloat the ship and tow it away, or to start cutting it up where it lies.
The population of the island swells from about 800 in winter to 5,000 in summer as visitors come to swim and snorkel in the waters of the surrounding marine park, and to watch local dolphins whose existence would be threatened by a fuel leak.
Samantha Brizzi, the island’s head of tourism, has said that an oil spill would be devastating for the island and the whole of the Tuscan coast.
Just days after the 114,5000-ton ship hit rocks off the island, Micky Arison, boss of parent company Carnival Corporation, told the stock exchange that “a damage assessment review of the vessel is currently being undertaken to determine how long it will be out of service …
Costa said today that it does not know how long the operation might take.
A spokesperson told me: ” We are currently evaluating possible solutions to remove the Costa Concordia from Isola del Giglio. We are totally committed to supporting the authorities and the people involved in the rescue operation and debunkering the ship. We cannot speculate about the future of the vessel until these operations are complete.”
The company did, however, confirm that Concordia’s itineraries would be taken over in the first instance by the smaller Costa Romantica, which carries about 1,500 passengers and was built in 1993. The ship is currently in the final stages of a £76 million refurbishment in a shipyard in Genoa and will emerge next month to be re-named NeoRomantica.
” In around 20 days the Costa Neo Romantica will leave the dry dock and will begin its cruise, (running from March 24 to May 21), using the itinerary of the Costa Concordia,” said the spokesperson. “From May 21 to November 2012 the itinerary of Costa Concordia will be offered on the Costa Magica.”
The company has also confirmed that the launch of Costa Fascinosa – built at a cost of £430 million – will now be a low-key affair. Preparations were in hand for lavish celebrations in Savona on May 6, but these have now been abandoned, out of respect for the victims of the Concordia tragedy. The death toll currently stands at 17, with 15 still listed as missing.