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the Prestige debacle (March 2003)

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the politics of irresponsibility—
the Prestige, April 2004

eu committee and greece point finger at spain

At last, international pressure is growing over the Prestige debacle and Captain Scapegoat Mangouras.

“[...] the committee deplores the decision taken by the Spanish authorities to tow the vessel away from the Galician coast. It voices concern at the statement by the Spanish government commissioner, Mr Fernández, that if an identical disaster were to happen the same decision would be taken again. Although the sealing operation to stop oil leaking from the wreck of the Prestige and the specific plans for making the wreck safe are welcomed, the committee calls on the competent authorities to continue their efforts to tackle the problem of the oil still present in the sea and the thousands of tonnes of waste in landfills. MEPs say the authorities should put forward a detailed calendar for the extraction and the treatment of the waste.”

“It is still completely unclear how much oil remains in the coastal waters of Galicia. Before the disaster, there were 77,000 tonnes of heavy oil on board the Prestige. It is estimated that 14,000 tonnes remain, some 43,000 tonnes having been washed up and/or cleaned up, according to the Spanish authorities' statistics. This still leaves 20,000 tonnes unaccounted for. MEPs voice deep concern in their report that these 20,000 tonnes could still be a threat to the marine environment and the coast. Moreover, the captain estimated that 2,000-3,000 tonnes of fuel were shed immediately after the initial damage to the Prestige, whereas the estimate of the Spanish authorities was that approximately 10,000 tonnes were lost.

Otherwise put, the Spanish authorities lied in order to lessen the amount of unaccounted-for oil. Neither do I believe that 43,000 tonnes have been cleaned up.

“The committee calls on the Spanish judicial authorities to allow Captain Mangouras to return to his country pending his trial, to relax the requirement that he report daily to the authorities and to clarify as soon as possible the starting date and timetable for the legal case against him. A delegation of the committee went to Barcelona in February to meet the captain, as he was not given permission to appear before Parliament at a public hearing.”

And from Greece:

The ship’s Greek captain, Apostolos Mangouras, was arrested immediately after the shipwreck and only released on bail of 3 million euros. He has been banned from leaving Spain. Greece has accused Spain of treating Mangouras as a scapegoat for its own mistakes.

Now to see whether the incoming Spanish government has any better sense of responsiblility and international civic duty.



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