Island oil mop-up continues

The operation to clean up fuel that has seeped from the sunken Sea Diamond cruise ship off the island of Santorini is continuing, the Merchant Marine Ministry said yesterday in an attempt to ease fears over the threat to the marine environment. The vessel, which sank at the beginning of April, is lying close to the shore with 400 tons of diesel still in its tanks. The Merchant Marine Ministry has said that it had sought help from a private company to help pump out the petrol but the contractor had been slow in acting. The ministry added yesterday that it was keeping a close eye on the area and that less fuel had been leaking from the vessel. «Under the supervision of the coast guard, work on cleaning up the affected sea and coast region is continuing,» the ministry said. Engineers believe that although the fuel tanks were not damaged in the accident, oil is leaking from different parts of the ship. Santorini authorities have been urging the ministry to speed up efforts for the removal of the fuel and has even threatened taking legal action against it. Meanwhile, the Hellenic Center of Maritime Research (ELKETHE) has placed 10 buoys at points around the sunken vessel to measure levels of pollution in the area. Mussels have also been placed in cages nearby to determine whether marine life is being harmed. Initial results are not expected for another month. Separately, the goverment said it was pressing ahead with legal proceedings against Cyprus-based Louis Hellenic Cruises, the owner of the Sea Diamond. Greece is expected to claim up to 1 billion euros in damages from the company.