COSTA CONCORDIA Sinking is a Potential Environmental Disaster

COSTA CONCORDIA Sinking is a Potential Environmental Disaster

In the days since the COSTA CONCORDIA disaster, officials have focused most of their time and energy on caring for passengers and crew and searching for those still missing. Complications from the accident, however, do not end there. Oil, fuel and other pollutants from the tragic cruise ship accident off the Italian coast have the potential to create an environmental disaster in the waters where it is partially submerged.

Since the COSTA CONCORDIA, owned by Carnival Cruise Lines, had only been at sea for a few hours, it still held most of its fuel for the trip, around 2,500 tons of gas and oil. Many are now concerned about those fluids leaking into the clear waters surrounding Giglio, one of seven islands comprising the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. According to USA Today, the Italian Environmental Minister has warned that the fuel and oil pose a huge threat to the area, a diverse environment with unique wildlife and natural beauty.

The potential for such a leak to damage to local plants, animals and people brings to mind the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Carolyn Latti, a Boston maritime attorney, stated, “We learned a lot of lessons from the Gulf disaster. We need Carnival to step up its efforts to make sure that the fuel is removed from the ship as quickly and safely as possible.”

Luckily, the ship has so far shown no sign of leaked fuel, but conditions could change at any time. The COSTA CONCORDIA is lying in relatively shallow waters but continues to slide slowly against rocks, which could damage the fuel tanks. Weather forecasts indicate a storm could strike the area, which could disturb the waters enough to affect the ship.

Officials have hired a company based out of the Netherlands to remove the fuel from the ship safely, but oil is not the only concern.  As the fuel is being removed careful consideration has to be taken into account of the bouyance, stability and structural integrity of the vessel in order to prevent the vessel from rolling or the hull even splitting which causing greater danger to the area, particularly the fragile coral reefs off the coast and cause a greater diawster.   The cleanup could take months, and it is impossible to know the amount of damage the area will endure.

Latti is a Boston maritime trial lawyer and partner at Latti & Anderson. She has helped people all over the world who have been injured or wronged in a cruise ship accident. Maritime law allows cruise lines to dictate strict windows of time for issues relating to cruise ship accidents, so if you have suffered as a result of the COSTA CONCORDIA disaster, contact us as soon as possible.