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oil 10

Reporting in progress - expect updates

the politics of irresponsibility—
Spain tries to gag EU investigating commission
the Prestige, September 2003

Before we start on the next piece of attempted irresponsibility, you are informed that, as a result of the callous and short-sighted actions of the Spanish government, heavy fuel oil from the Prestige has now reached as far as beaches in Belgium [1], about 850 miles/1460 km away.

marker at abelards news zone

At last, the European Parliament does the right thing:

The European Parliament (PE) [2] has approved the creation of a "temporary commission" to do a "detailed analysis" of the "causes and consequences of the catastrophe of the ' Prestige' ". The Chamber of Deputies had rejected two previous similar initiatives.”

[The text of the report upon which the commission is based is available here.]

“The plenary session approved, by 315 votes in favor, to 183 against and with six abstentions, this proposal presented by the Liberal group and supported by Socialists, Greens and the Unitary Left. The European Popular Party [EPP] was against.”

[The Popular Party (PP) is the ruling party in Spain.]

And why are the EPP and the PP against the European Parliament investigating the reasons for the Prestige debacle?

“... because it fears that it would end up [3] making the Spanish Government responsible for the black tide and they will have to pay the effected people the compensation that they, the Spanish government, are now demanding from the ship’s insurance companies. "To sow any doubt about what happened, or that any Spanish government responsibility can exist, is tantamount to exempting all [the other organisations] from responsibility." ”

“[The] PP hopes that the commission be limited to analyzing [...] the improvement of marine security and not the causes of the catastrophe.”
[Elvira Rodriguez, Spanish Minister of the Environment]

Does anyone need a clearer exposition than this of the venal, self-serving and, above all, irresponsible attitude and behaviour of the current Spanish government and its servants?

And this gall comes hard on the heels of the charges of incompetence made at the European Parliament, set out in the Minutes for the current Plenary session (See particularly items J, L, M, N, O, Q, R and no.s 7 and 32 – 35 in U.)

Further, the European Fishing Councillor, another Spaniard – Enrique Lopez Veiga – said that:

  • the investigation was “superfluous and untimely[3],
  • “the information and studies already established [unpublished, by the Spanish government!], will be much more enlightening than an investigation commission”,
  • “the decisions that were taken were not so bad”
  • it is still is not known “if there would have been alternatives”

and just in case the Spanish, Portuguese, French and, now, Belgian coastal inhabitants and fishermen had not realised:

  • “the subject of the Prestige is already a past page of history”.

marker at abelards news zone

At the beginning of September (2003) [1], Spanish, Portuguese and French officials met at Madrid to collate their national data regarding the pollution from the Prestige. The figures that emerged are:

  tonnes of heavy fuel oil
original cargo of the Prestige
collected from sea
collected from land
evaporated or biodegraded
still in the sunken hull 13,800
still swilling about in the sea
16,000 tonnes

marker at abelards news zone

End notes to article:
black tide—la marea negra, la marée noirecommon continental name for enormous oil slicks.

  1. News item in (Belgian) French from La Libre.
  2. News item in Spanish from El Mundo.
  3. Report in Spanish from the Spanish Merchant Marine Association.

the web address for the article above is


the politics of irresponsibility (July 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (June 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (May 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (April 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (March 2003)

the Prestige debacle (March 2003)

previous photos

more articles




oil 10

Experiments on the Prestige

It has been announced that experiments for testing the intended extraction method will start this week, continuing up to 31 October. The actual extraction of the oil remaining in the sunken halves of the Prestige will not start until next Spring.

The Spanish “Plan Repsol” is to remove the oil by attaching valves to the wreckage through which the oil will escape and be captured in giant ‘bags’.
If that does not work, the next step would be to build a canopy over the wreckage to trap oil heading for the surface. [Note that the wreckage is in two pieces, which have been found by the French submersible Nautile to lie two miles apart.]
As a last resort, the fuel oil would be pumped out of the wreckage.

Because such a three-step operation has never been tried, there was no set budget. Rajoy [Spanish vice-prime minister] withdrew a preliminary figure of 230 million euros ($246.7 million) he mentioned previously. Repsol will direct the project and have the support of oil firms BP, Eni of Italy, Petrobras of Brazil, Norway´s Statoil and TotalFinaElf of France. Those companies will have a budget of 11.4 million euros to 20.5 million euros, Rajoy said.”

Details of the proposed extraction method:

The Spanish oil major [Repsol] is planning to extract [the] fuel oil from the wreck of the tanker using a novel ‘gravity extraction’ method. According to a senior company official, a robot-controlled structure could be used to collect up to 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil at a time. This extraction would require a 70 cm hole to be drilled in the hull of the vessel. Fuel would then fall into [sic.] a valve connected to a globe-like construction that could be floated up to the surface. However, handling the situation under such low pressures[differentials ?], could prove to be extremely difficult.

Miguel López Sieiro, Fishing Minister in the Galician Parliament, says that the first tests to make 70-cm holes will be done on a part of the hull not containing oil. If that is successful, the next hole will be where there is oil, and a valve will be fixed to the hole.

“[Already,] a number of technically significant developments and important milestones have been achieved in this project, following the planning designed by the Operator Repsol YPF and using Sonsub's DPV Polar Prince, together with Sonsub and Thales GeoSolutions equipment:

“Successful ROV [Remote Operating Vehicle] intervention operation at 3800 m covering:

“ • External and Internal oil level measurement at 3800 m
  • Mini-cone penetrometer testing (MCPT) taken at 3800 m
  • Leak repairs - currently below 10 Kg/day in the bow and less than
    10 Kg/day in the stern
  • Multibeam sonar survey at 3800m
  • Environmental measurements made at 3800 m, including samples
    of water and oil
  • Geotechnical engineering studies at 3800m, including soil samples,
     box and piston cores”

Note that up until now the wreck has been reported to be at 3,500 metres. Now, with outside agencies involved, the wreck is reported at 3,800 metres.

the web address for the article above is

Some Spanish numbers

Again from Miguel López Sieiro:

  • There are 13,000 tonnes of fuel oil still in the sunken wreck of the Prestige;
  • It is now leaking 20 litres a day;
  • Before patching, the wreck was leaking 700 litres a day ;
  • Fuel oil arrived on two beaches, at Muxia and at Finisterra, on the 17th September;
  • Currently, 10 beaches are being cleaned;
  • So far, in Spain, 81,000 tonnes of residues (fuel oil and flotsam/jetsam mix) have been collected from the land, (63,000 tonnes in Galicia)
    and 51,000 tonnes from the sea;
  • 1.3 million square metres of seaboard, rocky zones and urban areas have been cleaned;
  • the largest number of people working was 11,000 in one day;
  • currently, there are 4,500 people cleaning up.

Given the Spanish governmental propensity to launder facts, as is shown in the table below, it is essential to be wary of all figures that they provide.

Previous quantities reported to be leaking (date when reported at abelard.org). Note the ship broke and sank on 19.11.2002.

20.09.2003        “Before patching, the wreck was leaking 700 litres a day.”
  leakage rate leaked since sunk
14.12.2002 125 tonnes a day approx. 3125 tonnes


80 tonnes a day approx. 5605 tonnes
18.01.2003 1 tonne a day approx. 5609 tonnes
16.02.2003 2 tonnes a day approx. 5667 tonnes
May 2003 Further patching was done by the French submarine, the Nautile
20.09.2003 10 kg a day (0.001 tonne) approx. 5668 tonnes

the politics of irresponsibility (August 2003)
the politics of irresponsibility (July 2003)
the politics of irresponsibility (June 2003)
the politics of irresponsibility (May 2003)
the politics of irresponsibility (April 2003)
the politics of irresponsibility (March 2003)
the Prestige debacle (March 2003)
previous photos
more articles

the web address for the article above is


the politics of irresponsibility (August 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (July 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (June 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (May 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (April 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (March 2003)

the Prestige debacle (March 2003)

previous photos

more articles

Surprise, surprise—the report censuring the Spanish government is rubbish…says the Spanish government

According to a ministerial spokesman, the undersecretary of the Department of Promotion, Adolfo Menéndez, this negative report is an “unintelligible , pseudo-scientific, political pamphlet” [news item in Spanish from El Mundo].

The 350-page report was drawn up with the collaboration of more than 40 professionals from different sectors related to the disaster and the maritime world, and coordinated by a public management expert and a specialist in crisis situations management.

The Spanish government itself has refused to make any sort of report on the Prestige catastrophe and its consequences, while its satellite Galician administration continues its investigation behind closed doors [news item in Spanish from El Mundo]. However, we are allowed to know that the central government representative and the former harbourmaster of La Coruña have been exonerated. Both were implicated early on in the mismanagement of the Prestige debacle.

In his attempts to undermine the “political pamphlet” report by belittling its authors, Adolfo Menéndez attempted to divert attention by recalling [article in Spanish from elcorreogallego.com] how just one of the forty coauthors of the current report had ordered a damaged Iranian tanker away from the Canary Islands in 1989. This incident had, in fact, just about nothing in common with the Prestige mess (see table below). The Khark-5, damaged in Morrocan waters, was drifting south-west and both Morocco and Spain refused to allow the vessel close to their shores, with the Spanish refusal coming long before the tanker came anywhere near their territory (the Canary Islands). All efforts were made by the involved parties to repair and rescue the Khark-5, not sink it, with the remaining oil on board being transferred away.

  Khark-5 Prestige
cargo light crude, that evaporates and otherwise disperses easily residual heavy fuel oil, difficult to disperse
total 240,000 tonnes 77,000 tonnes
spilt 63,334 tonnes 63,000 tonnes
wind “heavy” 40 – 80 knots
seas 1 1/2 metre waves 15 – 20 metre waves

Yet again, the Spanish government is trying desperately to make a smokescreen of irrelevancies to camouflage its irresponsibility.

the web address for the article above is

Suing in the USA—another mistake by the Spanish government?

The Spanish government imagined that they were clever [news item in Spanish from El Mundo] to follow the example of France and to sue their chosen victim in the United States. The French had successfully sued Standard Oil over the Amoco Cadiz wreck.

But the French had not made a series of foolish and irresponsible decisions and actions, “turning a disaster into a catastrophe” [Areces] , as the Spanish government has done over the Prestige. By suing the classification company ABS in the USA, the Spanish government have left themselves open to litigation by ABS and other third parties, and the performance of the Spanish government and its officials will be examined by the Court of New York.

Further, the classification company is not the right organisation to be sued regarding the maintenance and management of the Prestige. It is as if, when a hijacked car is crashed into a bus halted at a bus-stop, the car’s MOT inspector is prosecuted for the resulting deaths and damages.


the web address for this article is


the politics of irresponsibility (August 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (July 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (June 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (May 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (April 2003)

the politics of irresponsibility (March 2003)

the Prestige debacle (March 2003)

previous photos

more articles


Spanish government responsibility is recognised in Spain

A report [news item in Spanish from El Mundo], commissioned by the provincial government of Asturias, clearly censures the irresponsible actions and inaction of the Spanish government. It has been presented to the Spanish central parliament by an opposition (PSOE) deputy, together with the president of the Principality of Asturias.

The report’s primary conclusion is that the ecological and economic impact caused by this disaster could have been avoided if:

  • the maritime authorities had evaluated the situation correctly and
  • they had not taken the “wrong, hasty and ridiculous” decision to move the ship away from the Galician coast.
  • In addition, the maritime authorities did not consult the experts, and
  • the systems for marine security and fighting contamination “are obsolete” and lack sufficient personnel and material resources confront catastrophes of this type

Vicente Alvarez Areces, president of the Principality of Asturias, underlined that the report shows that the Government “reacted late, evaluated badly and managed worse the catastrophe”, and that “the page cannot be turned” on the subject because the consequences are going to last for years.

And those consequences continue as oil washes up again and again in Spain and in France, where Cherbourg is the latest northern town to be invaded by the bitter ‘fruits’ of Spanish irresponsibility.

Spanish diversion tactics

Since 16th November 2002, the Spanish Government [news item in Spanish from the Spanish Merchant Marine Association] has

  • jailed Captain Scapegoat Mangouras,
  • accused the shipbuilder of the Prestige,
  • accused the charterer and Russian buyer of the product,
  • accused Gibraltar,
  • accused the United Kingdom,
  • accused the captain of the Danish port where the Prestige had been working previous to its last voyage,
  • accused the inspecting Greek authorities,
  • accused the insuring company,
  • accused the tugboats that took part,
  • accused the flags of convenience,
  • accused the off-shore companies,
  • accused the organisations responsible for international navigation safety,
  • derided Admiralty law for its insufficiency,
  • accused the classification society ABS,
  • accused the Chinese shipyard Cosco that repaired the ship in 2001.

All done to divert attention from the clear responsibility of the Spanish government and their agents.

the web address for this article is



Spain bleeds the EU with its continuing irresponsibility over the Prestige

Nine months after the ecological disaster, some 2,300 workers are still cleaning over 30 tonnes a day of tarry residues from Galicia's beaches. Three quarters of the $35.7 million budget to clean Galicia's coast comes from European Union funds.

“ "We do not have any special equipment here. It's almost like they want the work to take longer. The longer it takes, the more money comes from Madrid and Brussels," she [Maria, a local paid by the local council to clean the fuel oil] said.”

Note that it is not just the Galicians, or even the Spanish, who are victims of Spanish government irresponsiblitiy. Analysis shows that the tarry deposits arriving last weekend on beaches in the Pas-de-Calais (north-east France) are from the Prestige.

Spain’s lies start to be reported by the world’s press

From the outset the Spanish government has been accused of playing down the gravity of the accident and being slow or misleading with information. In the first days after the Prestige was towed out to sea, broke in two, and sank, the state's representative in Galicia, Arsenio Fernandez de Mesa, described the spillage as "a burp, practically nothing."

“At that stage officials also said the cold and water pressure would probably harden the oil that stayed inside the ship's tanks and render it harmless. They were wrong.

“And whereas Deputy Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insisted late last year that only "little streams" of oil were leaking out, engineers now say the ship disgorged more than half of its toxic cargo the day it sank.”

the web address for this article is


the far east’s demands for energy

“The Paris-based International Energy Agency, an autonomous agency linked with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), has already raised its forecast of oil demand twice this year, to 78.41 million barrels of oil per day, primarily because of China's burgeoning demand.”

Link from Lavigne.

the web address for this article is


bush, oil and iraq
Recommended reading.

“The lack of Iraqi oil may have pushed [the price of crude oil] higher still, but the real reasons for the longevity of high oil prices are not in the Middle East but in Louisiana and China. In that southern US state and in neighbouring Texas lie huge salt-lined caverns that house America's strategic petroleum reserves. After 11 September 2001, President Bush said he wanted to increase the oil in the reserve from 600 million barrels to 700 million barrels by the end of 2005.”

the web address for this article is


email abelard at abelard.org

© abelard, 2003, 25 september

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