By Martha Moss - 24th January 2012
You don't have to be a genius to work out that the ship sailing too close to the coastline
The commission and Emsa will follow and accompany as necessary the rescue, salvage and investigation operations
We need to make sure there is no vilification
The EU is "closely following" efforts to remove more than 2300 tonnes of diesel from the wreckage of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, transport commissioner Siim Kallas has said.
Speaking following the accident near the Italian port of Civitavecchia, the commission vice-president told MEPs on parliament's transport committee that European agencies would contribute to efforts to extract fuel from the liner.
At least 15 people died, and 17 are missing, when the giant cruise ship ran aground and capsized earlier this month.
"While the search and rescue operation continues, we are closely following the preparations to remove the more than 2300 tonnes of fuel oil on board and reduce the risk of an oil spill," Kallas said.
He added that the European maritime safety agency (Emsa) has facilitated the use of one of its specialised oil spill response ships to help remove the fuel.
The ship, "contracted as a stand-by by the specialised salvage company in charge of the fuel removal", has now arrived on site, said the commissioner.
"The commission and Emsa will follow and accompany as necessary the rescue, salvage and investigation operations," he said.
Kallas added that the commission would present new legislative proposals on safety in passenger vessels after the summer, but Italian MEP Carlo Fidanza said there was more urgent work to be undertaken before coming up with new laws.
For Fidanza, the priorities are to empty the tanks, remove any bodies remaining on the ship and "avoid an environmental disaster that may still happen" if the environmental conditions change.
Fidanza said there were also compensation issues to be dealt with, and urged caution of making predictions ahead of the release of the official inquest.
"We need to make sure there is no vilification," he said.
Committee chair Brian Simpson agreed that policymakers must wait for the publication of the official report.
"It's easy to point fingers as to whose fault it is, but its usually good practice to wait for and analyse the official report," he said.
"The media love to be able to say whose fault it was… we'll await the official inquiry."
He added, "I've heard some people say the ship [was] sailing too close to the coastline. That's probably one of the greatest understatements I've heard in my life.
"You don't have to be a genius to work out that the ship [was] sailing too close to the coastline."