January 15, 2012 / 4:50 PM / in 6 years

Dutch company SMIT to pump oil from Italian ship

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch maritime services company SMIT will pump oil from a capsized Italian cruise liner once search operations for missing people have ended, the Dutch company said on Sunday.

A few dozen people were still unaccounted for after cruise ship Costa Concordia, which carried more than 4,000 people, capsized near the Italian island of Giglio on Friday evening. At least five people were killed.

SMIT has been asked by the ship’s owner and insurer to pump out oil from the luxury 114,500-tonne ship and clean up oil if it starts to leak, said a spokesman of Dutch dredger Boskalis Westminster, which owns SMIT.

“To indicate the phases: the first priority is to search for people missing. We are not involved in this,” Boskalis spokesman Martijn Schuttevaer said. “Once we can enter the ship and if it is stable we can start to pump out the oil. Then it is up to the insurer and owner to see if you can salvage the ship.”

SMIT had not yet started to pump out oil as of Sunday morning, Schuttevaer said.

“The ship’s tanks are not leaking. This does not rule out that some oil leaks into sea,” he said.

The ship’s owner and insurer had not yet given a mandate on salvaging the 290-metre-long cruise ship and this would be a new, separate contract open to all companies, he said. He declined to say how the ship could be salvaged or how much time it could take.

“The priority is now on the missing people and oil. After that you can look at what kind of contract you bring to the market to remove the wreckage,” Schuttevaer said.

SMIT is one of the world’s largest marine salvage firms, and together with Dutch heavy lifting and transport company Mammoet succeeded in lifting Russian nuclear submarine Kursk in 2001 from a depth of 108 meters in the Barents Sea.

Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger; Editing by Peter Graff

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