Dutch firm ready to pump Italy wreck fuel within a day

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The Dutch salvager charged with pumping fuel from a capsized cruise ship off the Italian coast said Tuesday operations could start within a day.

"From the salvage side, we are ready to start the operation tomorrow (Wednesday)," said Smit Salvage operations manager Kees van Essen in a telephone conference with journalists.

He said a timeframe for pumping operations is expected to be clearer after a meeting later Tuesday with the Italian authorities, the Coast Guard, the Costa Concordia's owners and insurers.

A spokesman for Royal Boskalis, Smit Salvage's parent company, said there was currently no danger of large scale pollution off Italy's scenic Giglio Island.

"At present there has been no form of pollution or oil escaping from the vessel," Martijn Schuttevaer said.

But Van Essen added: "We are aware of the risk. The earlier we can start, the better, we feel confident that the removal can be done, but there are always environmental risks."

He said the operation to pump out 2,380 tonnes of heavy oil (fuel) and 200 tonnes of diesel was expected to take between two to four weeks after which discussions between salvage companies and the ship's owners would start on how to remove the Costa Concordia's wreck.

Although weather was a concern, with a storm predicted to lash the island on Thursday, the men said preliminary observations showed chances of the ship slipping off a rocky shelf was minimal.

"There are quite a number of penetrations on the starboard side acting as an anchor," Van Essen added.

The weather forced a temporary evacuation of the 17-deck cruise ship for several hours Monday after it slipped on a rocky shelf under the sea, sparking fears that the hull could sink entirely.

© 2012 AFP

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