Removal of fuel to take weeks

It will take a «few weeks» before all the diesel from the sunken cruise ship Sea Diamond can be pumped out of its tanks, said Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis yesterday as he assured MPs that Louis Cruise Lines would cover the cost of the entire operation. Kefaloyiannis assured deputies that his ministry would ensure that «even the last drop of fuel» would be removed from the sea off Santorini, where the cruise ship sank some two weeks ago. There are more than 400 tons of diesel still in the ship’s fuel tanks and residents fear that this could begin seeping out and damage the popular island’s shores. The minister defended the government’s handling of the sinking but faced criticism from PASOK MPs who accused New Democracy of providing favorable treatment to the owner of the cruise company, Costakis Loizou. Kefaloyiannis also told the parliamentary committee that he would change the law so that Santorini’s Athinio harbor and the port of Iraklion on Crete would no longer be on a list of 16 ports where ships can dock if they are experiencing problems that may lead to the vessels polluting the sea. The minister said the changes were being made so that areas of natural beauty could be protected. Local politicians from Santorini are due to meet with Kefaloyiannis today as they demand that authorities give them a specific timetable of when the ship’s fuel is to be pumped out of the tanks. Samples of water taken from the sea around the spot where the Sea Diamond sank have not shown any signs of any major pollution problem so far. Moderate northerly winds have helped contain the oil slick that was produced when the ship sank early on Good Friday. It has also meant that the waves have not been large enough to push water over the floating barriers that have been strung out around the slick. Members of the Sea Diamond’s crew are due to begin facing questioning by authorities on Monday, sources told Kathimerini.

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