Workers inspect the booms designed to prevent oil contamination Gregorio Borgia/AP/Press Association Images
Costa Concordia

Fuel detected in sea around capsized Costa Concordia

But it’s thought the substance is diesel from machinery aboard the stricken cruise ship – not the heavy fuel oil from its huge tanks.

FUEL HAS BEEN detected in the sea near the capsized Costa Concordia – apparently from machinery aboard the ship, according to Italian Coast Guard officials.

But Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr Cosimo Nicastro says there is no indication that any of the nearly 2,200 tons of heavy fuel oil has leaked from the ship’s double-bottomed tanks.

Nicastro said the leaked substance appears to be diesel, which is used to fuel rescue boats and dinghies and as a lubricant for ship machinery.

There are 185 tons of diesel and lubricants on board the crippled vessel, which is lying on its side just outside the port of the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio. Nicastro described the light fuel’s presence in the sea as “very light, very superficial” and appearing to be under control.

Although attention has been concentrated on the heavy fuel oil in the tanks, “we must not forget that on that ship there are oils, solvents, detergents, everything that a city of 4,000 people needs,” Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, told reporters in Giglio.

Gabrielli, who is leading rescue, search and anti-pollution efforts for the Concordia, was referring to the roughly 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew who were aboard the cruise liner when it ran into a reef near Giglio’s coast on January 14, and then, with the sea rushing into a 70-metre gash in its hull, listed and finally fell onto its side.

Oil-absorbing booms

Considering all the substances aboard the Concordia, “contamination of the environment, ladies and gentlemen, already occurred” when the cruise liner capsized, Gabrielli told a news conference.

Vessels equipped with machinery to suck out the light fuel oil were in the area, Italian officials told Italian TV.

Earlier today, crews removed oil-absorbing booms used to prevent environmental damage in case of a leak. Originally white, the booms were grayish.

Divers resumed their search of the wreckage after data indicated the cruise ship had stabilised in the sea off Tuscany. To make it easier to enter and leave, the divers blasted more holes into the carcass of the ship. They were hoping to inspect an area where many passengers had gathered during the evacuation.

They were searching for bodies or survivors, although it is considered unlikely any of the 21 missing in the accident could still be alive.

The search had been suspended on Friday after the Concordia shifted, prompting fears the ship could roll off a rocky ledge of sea bed and plunge deeper into the sea. An abrupt shift could also cause a leak in the Concordia’s fuel tanks, polluting the pristine waters around Giglio, part of a seven-island Tuscan archipelago.

Video: Costa Concordia crew member defends captain>

More: How could the Costa Concordia be salvaged?>

Associated Foreign Press
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