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III-2004: 03 IV-2004: 06
the politics of irresponsibility
|Eye irritation||14.4%||Skin irritation||6.6%|
|Throat irritation||12%||? because of cuts||4.65%|
|Difficulty breathing||10%||Abdominal pain||4.5%|
|Injury||9.3%||Deterioration of consciousness||4%|
|Nausea or vomiting||9.2%||Loss of appetite||2.2%|
The scientific committee set up to decide what best to do with the sunken Prestige oil tanker has proposed that the oil remaining in the tanker at a depth of 3,600m be removed. They say that such a complex operation would need the skills of several specialist companies and would cost some 200 million Euros. The committee ruled out [...] two other proposals of dynamiting the ship and collecting the fuel on the surface, or burying the wreck in a tomb of concrete. TypicallySpanish.com
It seems this committee are suggesting a modification of the most anomalous suggestion pull up the two sections of the wreck from the sea floor and then empty them out. Now that suggestion truly highlights the stupidity of the Spanish governments actions: to go to all the bother of breaking up and the sinking the tanker, only to then haul it up again!
The London-based managing agents for the marine insurers of the Prestige have posted the three million Euros (€ 3,000,000) blackmail demand sorry, bail for the hostage sorry, alleged criminal taken sorry, legally arrested by the Spanish authorities five days before the Prestige broke in two and sank.
Of the bail, Captain Scapegoats lawyer says, It is an absolutely
exorbitant bond. Completely out of place. Even if it were a crime worthy
of nine years, it would be an exorbitant bond.
Meanwhile, the international tanker owners association Intertanko called the bail illegal, saying it violates the masters right to reasonable bail under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (Part V, Article 73.2).
And we read elsewhere,
[for context, the Prestige was damaged on 13 November 2002 and broke in two, then sank on 19 November 2002]
the [Spanish] government defends its decision as the best of a poor set of options, accusing critics of 20-20 hindsight. PlanetArk
November 18, 2002 [...] Spanish authorities have refused point blank to allow the Prestige a port of shelter [...] They therefore ordered the tanker, which started listing and sustained hull damage during stormy conditions last Wednesday, to be towed into international waters 120 miles from the Spanish coast. No other ports of refuge have been offered
Nov. 17, 2002 [Lars Walder, a spokesman for Smit Salvage, a Dutch company trying to salvage the oil aboard the Prestige]
said the salvage company was trying to arrange for a sheltered harbor where it could transfer fuel from the Prestige. He said the ship, which has a gash in its side of more than 32 feet, did not appear in imminent danger.
[Walder] said tugs towing the tanker had been ordered by Spanish authorities to stop.
("With the Prestige exposed to the violent Atlantic conditions, it can be reported that the salvage team has had no option but to head south in search of calmer waters. The ship's condition is stable and the tow continues on a southerly track, with the convoy some 70 miles offshore," Dutch Salvage company Smit confirmed. See also.)
The Spanish government's chief representative in Galicia, Arsenio Fernandez de Mesa [...] told a news conference [...] "Our only wish is to remove this ship from the Spanish coast," he said.
Thus, again the Spanish government tells porkies, rather than face up to its mistakes and responsibilities.
We also have suspicions that the Spanish story, of how Captain Scapegoat tried to prevent tow-cables being attached to the wounded tanker, is fiction. Certainly, this does not accord with early reports on the situation, such as,
November 13, 2002 Its captain, first officer and chief engineer remained aboard, hoping to steer the tanker into the port of La Coruna, about 375 miles (600 kilometers) northwest of Madrid, with the aid of tugboats.
On Wed, 20 Nov 2002 20:19:27, the day following the sinking of the Prestige, abelard, knowing nothing about boats and the sea, said in a public communication,
i have questions.....
1)would it not have been better to have allowed the tanker to ground when at least some of the oil could have been pumped out?
2)would it not have been better to drag the tanker into a port and then seal off the port?
3)exactly why did the spanish authorities order the tanker dragged out to sea? was it to get it out of spanish waters and thereby avoid responsibility?
4)my investigations tell me that this stuff will now eventually resurface...others say it may remain sunk in solidified form.... (due to cold and pressure)....but will it....oil is lighter than water....will metal rust in those conditions.....what other 'deterioration' is possible?
Each one of these concerns have proved to be justified, as step by step, more information has surfaced. If a rank amateur could ask these questions immediately after the sinking of the tanker, why then did the Spanish government, with all its resources and advice to hand, instead cause the sinking of the Prestige and theis dreadful ecological disaster?
We think that the answer is simpleit is summed up entirely in the quote from the Spanish governments chief representative in Galicia, Arsenio Fernandez de Mesa, cited above.
"Our only wish is to remove this ship from the Spanish coast"
In other words, total, selfish, ignorant irresponsibility. The fully justified criticisms of the Spanish government have absolutely nothing to do with hindsight, and everything to do with wilful recklessness.
And still there is no proper governmental or EU inquiry.
Eighty-two days, and counting,
into one of the worlds major peace-time disasters
At last, a major news service is now starting to tell the truth, and to spread the word about the disgraceful behaviour of the Spanish government concerning the sinking of the Prestige, and about their treatment of Captain Scapegoat.
With all the leaks in the Prestige stopped for the moment, it
is time to wait for the Spanish government to decide what (if anything!)
to do with the wreck in its waters.
Recall that estimates are that there is still twice as much oil in the sunken vessel as has leaked, and that the wreck is expected to deteriorate so, at best, this is a temporary respite. By cleverly sinking the ship in 3500 metres, the Spanish authorities have presented the salvage industry with a problem beyond anything they have ever before achieved.
scandal rapidly turning into EU scandal.
How many reports will it take?
A second preliminary report has been published [direct link not yet available], this time by the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA), which damns actions taken by the Spanish authorities:
It is now clear that if decisive action had been taken at an early stage to move the ship to a more sheltered location, the ship and its cargo would almost certainly have been saved and any pollution would have been minimal.
(Also see here for more on the BMA report.)
Meanwhile, attempts to set up a European parliamentary commission of inquiry have been twice thwarted by the parties of the right in the European Parliament. One theory is that this is a political manoeuvre to protect the current Spanish government. Another possibility is if we protect your back, you will protect ours in the game of political self-interest. It is noted that there was no such eagerness to cover the British government from the hugely expensive consequences of BSE. If compensation were to be (wrongly) paid by the EU to Spain, of course it would come out, primarily, of the pockets of UK and German taxpayers, both countries that currently have left-wing governments.
In this context, however, it is well to remember that there is already a precedent for Spain paying for their errors regarding oil spills. In December 1992, the Aegean Sea, a double-hulled tanker, was grounded as it entered the Galician port of La Coruna. Both the master of the vessel and the pilot provided by the port were found liable. The Spanish State, being responsible for the pilot, paid half the $67 million compensation awarded.
In complete contrast, on the day of the sad crash of the Columbia space shuttle, two independent inquiries were set up in the United States to discover why that tragedy occurred.
And still Captain Scapegoat languishes in a Spanish jail, imprisoned for an environmental disaster which he did not cause. Naturally, the Greek authorities are incensed by the dishonest Spanish attempts to shift blame onto the 68 year-old master of the Prestige.
03.02.2003 Rather than Spain attempting to sue the ship owner, the oil transporting agent, the captain of the Prestige, and anyone else they can think of on whom to shift blame; it is the ship owner, the oil transporting agent and Captain Scapegoat who should be receiving compensation for lost goods, lost liberty and damaged professional reputations.
is a political prisoner:
the Spanish government claims of 'innocence' continue to unwind
29.01.2003 With a growing world-wide recognition that Spains actions to avoid dealing responsibly with this disaster led to a catastrophe worse than that of Exxon Valdez in 1989, the Spanish government is blaming poor poll ratings on the media doing what the media shouldreporting problems and their sources.
As part of the Spanish governments attempt to improve their standing with their voters, Iberia, the Spanish airline, has been given permission to offer free flights (from within Spain) to Galicia for up to 10,000 cleanup volunteers a week.
By contrast, French doctors are refusing to supply any more pre-cleanup medical certificates, fearing that they might then be held responsible for any illnesses or deaths resulting from the effects of the highly toxic residual fuel oil that the Prestige throws into the sea. Thus, it is mainly professionals military and civilian who are cleaning up French beaches.
instead of leadership
The European Commissioner for Transport and Energy wants to change the international law of the sea, so that those involved in polluting the sea, from captains to ship owners, are prosecuted.
Strangely, Loyola de Palacio did not mention irresponsible nations in this list. But then the prime irresponsible nation in the firing line at present is Spain, and Ms de Palacio is Spanish.
Nor was there any mention of the responsibility of the European Union for allowing the problem of single-hulled ships to continue for many a year past, or for recently proposing that the single-hull problem continue until 2010, instead of until 2015. Neither can be heard much talk about reducing dependence on ever-depleting oil resources.
Greek Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis said Spain had only itself to blame for the spill and was acting like a "Third World country" in its treatment of arrested captain Apostolos Mangouras.
Arrested and charged with hampering rescue efforts, Mangouras is in jail in Spain with bail set at three million euros.
"He was the one who asked to stay on board and try to help out in rescue operations. He didn't sink the ship. But now he is charged with blocking rescue efforts," Anomeritis said.
14.01.03 A good summary article from the United States, reports that Spanish government is being targeted by locals in Galicia as the main culprit of the ecological and economic disaster being wrought on them, their fishing industry and the Galician shoreline. The governments refusal to follow the advice of both the Prestiges captain and the salvage company Smit has resulted in a catastrophe worse than that of the Exxon Valdez in Alaskan waters.
But it is not just the Galicians who recognise the Spanish governments wilful incompetence. French newspapers are not just saying sue the shipping company, but they also suggest that the Spanish and Galician authorities be brought to book for dispersing and aggravating the pollution from the Prestige.
Meanwhile, Captain Scapegoat remains in a Spanish jail; and PM Aznar does his best to distract by reforming Spains legal system or by, instead, drawing attention to the local Basque separatist campaign, called terrorism.
13.01.03 The mayor of Bordeaux, Alan Juppé, and 20 members of his city council, including Hugues Martin (European M.P.), were on the beach of Petit-Nice, at La Teste-de-Buche in the Archachon Basin at the weekend, helping to clean up oil pollution from the Prestige, using rakes, lances and plastic sacks. Like all other volunteers, they had each shown their medical certificate and were kitted out in yellow combinations, boots and gloves. M. Juppé also sported a black Landaise beret.
This civic behaviour must be contrasted with that of both the local and national Spanish governments. In a new revelation, it has been discovered that the masks provided for the volunteers in Galicia, made of paper, do not filter the gases given off by the polluting oil. These masks are sold by a company belonging to a relative of the Galician regional President. I wonder whether UK politicians will be found at the water-front if this mess reaches the British coast?
[A local yak reporting]
Oil found in the Ile de Ré and the Ile dOleron has come from nearby tankers cleaning and discharging their tanks, piggy-backing on pollution arriving from the wreck of the Prestige in Spanish waters.
The French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, today visited zones in Gironde, already affected by oil from the Prestige. He has released a first envelope of 50 million euros to help pay for the clean-up.
Meanwhile, the French President, Jacques Chirac, commented vehemently against opportunist rogue ship-owners cleaning their tanks, but also made no comment on the actual origin and cause of the major pollution from the Prestige, caused by the decisions of Chiracs European Union colleague, Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, and his government.
At the same time, on instructions from the Palais dElyssée (the presidential palace), a legal file is being assembled in preparation for suing for costs and damages. The obvious body to sue is the Spanish government, not the ship owners or its captain.
days and Prestige
oil is on the French coast
Now France starts to pay for the Spanish governments mistakes as oil, identified as such by two French laboratories, arrives on the French Atlantic coast.
On the 17 km stretch of Gironde coast under close surveillance, pancakes up to 15 cm across have been sighted, although there are many smaller lumps (some only finger-sized) amongst the abundant winter flotsam and jetsam of branches, twigs and plastic rubbish thrown up by the seas. Meanwhile, patches of oil have been spotted to the south on the Landes coast at the Courant dHuchet, a sensitive natural site, and to the north on the Ile de Ré.
The Prestige: Latest reports (Feb. 2003)
The Prestige: Latest reports (Jan. 2003)
The politics of irresponsibility (Nov & Dec 2002)
The Prestige debacle, part 2 November & December 2002
Another potential ecological oil mess (Nov. 2002)
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email abelard at abelard.org
© abelard, 2003, 5 january
the address for this document is http://www.abelard.org/news/oil5.htm