Italy environment minister warns of Concordia salvage delays

Clini says operation behind schedule, increasing safety risks

Italy environment minister warns of Concordia salvage delays

Rome, December 13 - Italy's environment minister on Thursday said that delays in removing the beached Costa Concordia cruise liner from Isola del Giglio risked leading to further environmental damage. In a letter addressed to Costa Co-Chief Executives Pierluigi Foschi and Michael Thamm, as well as to the head of Italy's civil protection agency, Franco Gabrielli, and to the president of the Tuscany Region, Enrico Rossi, Minister Corrado Clini said it was ''urgent'' that a working program be developed for the last phase of the stranded ship's removal and the recovery of the hull in ''an ideal location''. ''As I have previously indicated to Franco Gabrielli, the delays with respect to the scheduled [salvage operation] are and continue to be causes of great worry,'' Clini wrote. On Thursday Clini added that the main concerns regard the conditions of the ship's hull and the existence of the necessary safety conditions to ''guarantee that the recovery can go ahead in safe conditions which don't create further risks and emergencies.'' The Costa Concordia went aground January 13, leaving a total of 32 dead and several injured, after the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, passed too close to the Isola del Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany. Schettino is facing a possible indictment for multiple manslaughter. Cosat is owned by U.S. cruise giant Carnival Corporation. In April, Titan Salvage, an American-owned marine salvage company, along with Italian firm Micoperi were awarded the contract to remove the Concordia wreck from the island. The removal of the cruise liner will be the biggest operation of its kind ever attempted and is expected to cost at least $400 million. While the ship's removal from the island was initially expected to begin sometime in January 2013, an official of the salvage company has said it may not be until June at the earliest before towing can commence.

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