Pumping of ship fuel delayed

Almost a month after the sinking of the Sea Diamond cruise ship off the coast of Santorini, the government has yet to decide how it will remove more than 400 tons of fuel still in the shipwreck, it was revealed yesterday. The Merchant Marine Ministry admitted last week that it did not have an approved strategy for saving the popular island’s coastline from being badly polluted. Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis told Parliament that a company called Core Marine Limited had sent a letter to the ministry on April 13 «that included a plan on how to remove the fuel and other pollutants.» The minister said the firm had been asked to submit the technical details for approval by the ministry but did not give any more details about what its plans were. A ship belonging to the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (HCMR) reached Santorini on Monday to record data regarding the Sea Diamond’s exact position. This information will be necessary for deciding how the fuel will be removed. Municipal authorities are anxiously monitoring the wreck at a depth of around 120 meters on the slope of Santorini’s submerged volcanic crater. «I do not know the reason but there has been a considerable delay in plans to remove the fuel,» Santorini Mayor Angelos Roussos told Kathimerini yesterday. Some of the diesel has already started to leak from the wreck, prompting a cleanup of some of the island’s beaches. Experts fear that half the fuel oil may have already seeped out of different parts of the ship, even though the fuel tanks do not appear to have suffered any damage. However, the remaining fuel could still create a serious problem for the marine environment, an expert told Kathimerini. In a bid to gather more information about the sinking, Greek authorities on Sunday sent the ship’s data recording device for analysis to the US under heavy security. It is not clear if the data will explain why the accident occurred.