With the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia dangerously shifting, Italy's Environment Minister Corrado Clini warned that the sinking may lead to an environmental disaster if the ship begins to leak its 2,300 tons of fuel on board. The Italian cruise ship, which ran aground just after leaving port for a week-long Mediterranean cruise, had full fuel tanks.

We are now in the emergency phase of trying to prevent pollution, Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman and CEO of the ship's owners Costa Cruises, told Reuters. He also said the disaster was due to human error by the captain. According to Reuters, the ship is carrying heavy, or bunker, fuel, which is harder to pump out unless heated or diluted, due to its density. They also reported that there was a liquid leaking out of the ship, though it not clear if it is fuel. A protective barrier is being put in as a protective measure.

The 951-foot ship is currently sitting on a ledge 65 feet underwater, but workers fear that the ship could slip into much deeper water. The ship is capsized off the coast of Giglio, a natural maritime park and popular tourist destination for diving, and has a diverse marine and coral life.

The environmental risk for the island of Giglio is very, very high, Clini told Reuters. The aim is to prevent the fuel leaking out of the ship. We are working to avoid this. It is urgent and time is running out. By calling a state of emergency, funds would be freed up to prevent or deal with an environmental disaster.

In recent years, there have been calls from environmental groups asking the large ships be banned from travelling near Giglio and other islands in the Tuscan archipelago. These monstrous floating cities pollute the scenery with their very presence and the rivers, seas and cities where they stop with the refuse that they produce, Alessandra Motola Molfino, national president of Italy's national conservation group, Italia Nostra, told Reuters.

Foschi said that the current plan is to remove the fuel then raise the ship with balloons and tow it away from shore. If that fails, however, he said there is a chance the ship would have to be cut into pieces in order to be removed.