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New translation, the Magna Carta

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oil 11

Reporting in progress - expect updates
the politics of irresponsibility—the Prestige
a year after—summary article
[original is a translation from German, tidied by]

“According to the official reports, 14,000 tons remains to be extracted [from the sunken wreck]. This means a total sum of 63,000 tons of fuel, some of which is still arriving as far as more than 1,000 kilometers from an extraordinary landscape, with a richness of flora and fauna and many very high-value ecological sites, such as natural reserves and other areas for the protection of species in danger of extinction. ”

“In an inexplicable manner, the government of the world's country most affected by spills did not have the preventive procedures to avoid a certainly predictable disaster.”

“While the population fought against the consecutive oil slicks, the authorities denied accepting the magnitude of the spill and its effects in parliament and in the mass media. ”

See also this article from Nature.

a year after—the Spanish cover-up starts to slip

“All around on the rocks, there is not the trace of a single shell. Here, on the coast region, the triumphal declarations of Ana Pastor, the minister of Health, and of Elvira Rodriguez, her environmental equivalent, on the perfect state of the sea environment and of the fauna leaves members of Nunca Mais [Never again - the main Galician protest organisation against the oil spill] perplexed and makes it easier to understand their distrust.

“ "Ana Pastor and the others can tell us what they want to reassure us, we have the right to not believe them," said Rosaura Rodriguez-Garcia,one of their lawyers. "It is clear that the health checks have been made but why should we blindly trust in people who have not stopped lying to us for a year. We are to believe managers who, during the most terrible moments of the catastrophe, were explaining to us that the pollution was under control, while thousands of local fishermen fought against the sheets of crude oil with shrimp nets and their bare hands. To better manipulate public opinion, they even refused to hear our numerous scientists specialising in sea studies doing research at La Coruna and at Vigo. Because these researchers are not politicians, they can make troubling statements while being objective.”

Nunca Mais and Izquierda Unida [United Left] are suing the Galician government.

“The plaintiffs .... have produced the report of a maritime expert from La Coruna which reveals new errors committed by the crisis group, notably the order given to the captain of the Prestige to restart the ship's motors, which hand the effect of provoking a more rapid rupture of the already badly damaged hull.”
Sud Ouest online [original in French]

a year after—the mess continues

“All is impeccable on the surface. The slabs of crude oil have been picked up and the rocks treated with a pressurised water gun but it is underneath the the enemy is hiding. Maria and Carla, her colleague, resemble from afar a couple of archaeologists bent over the ruins of an historic site. Sometimes crouching, other times kneeling, they turn over large granite stones and rocks one by one. but it is to scrape the underneath using a trowel to remove the black and viscous crude that still sticks there. The fuel oil remains liquid, it splatters their gloves and stinks like the first day. The two women scratch the stones, then throw them behind them, still blackened.”
Sud Ouest online [original in French]

a year after—wildlife battered

“ “On conservative estimates, we consider that the 23,000 birds collected in Spain, France and Portugal only comprise 10-20% of the birds affected by the Prestige disaster,” says Carlota Viada, Director of the Conservation Department at SEO/BirdLife. “Therefore we estimate that the number of birds affected by the fuel is anywhere between 115-230,000.” This is because a large proportion of the corpses are never washed ashore.”

a year after— Spanish government stupidity continues

“Spanish officials stand by their decision, however. "I do not regret the towing of the Prestige offshore," Galician fisheries minister Enrique Lopez Veiga told newspaper La Voz de Galicia last week. The strategy allowed the spill to be diluted over a wider area, he says.

“The Spanish government's policy is to do the same with any leaking tanker in Spanish waters. ”

marker at abelards news zone

The most catastrophic decision for birds which the Spanish Government made was to move the tanker Prestige away from the Galician coast when they knew that it was losing the fuel that it was transporting,” comments Alejandro Sánchez, Director of SEO/BirdLife. “It is incredible that, given the devastating effects of this disaster on wildlife, the Spanish Government has neither tightened its maritime security procedures nor has it further invested in vital equipment, such as tugboats and cleaning tankers.”

a year after—Captain Scapegoat
The Spanish political prisoner, Captain Scapegoat Mangouras is under constraint whilst Spanish politicians and government servants avoid being brought to account.

the web address for the article above is





oil 11

Current estimates for fuel oil spilt from the Prestige, still the wreck and still in the sea

These figures come from the WWF International report, The Prestige: One Year On, A Continuing Disaster

  tonnes of heavy fuel oil
original cargo of the Prestige
split from Prestige
remaining in the wreck 13,000
drifting offshore and periodically landing on the coast
between 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes

the web address for the article above is




the politics of irresponsibility—the Prestige
French administrations sue Spain

Hard on the heels of a Gironde municipality, La Teste-de-Buch [3] , now a whole Departement (fairly equivalent to a US State), Les Landes with its 17 coastal municipalities [2], is suing Spain, whom they regard as “denying their responsibility for the ship wreck of the Liberian tanker Prestige, and the consequent oil spill, for nearly a year” – citing “inadequate public service organisation, moving the ship away from the coast and insufficient means for pumping the oil”. Spain is being sued for 1.7 million euro (1,700,000 €), this being the cost of repeated cleaning of the beaches and connected inland waters, as well as protection measures, since oil started arriving in France. However, this may not be the final sum as no account has been made of losses to the tourist industry (with bookings down by 30% or more) since the Spanish irresponsibility began, nor to future losses.

looking along a French beach at the Prestige oil harvest
And fresh soft oil, not old hardened lumps, still comes in to spoil French beaches with every westerly or soouthwesterly wind. A lot is cleared using sieve-equpped grading machines (cribleuses), but the lumps buried by the drifting sand, or blown more inland by storm winds are not collected.

marker at abelards news zone

Meanwhile, Spain clings to their excuse for the mess, their political prisoner, Captain Scapegoat Mangouras. Their Constitutional Court has upheld the berserk bail requirement of 3 million euro because

“of the risk that Apostolos Mangouras could abscond. Mangouras, 68, was freed in February after the money was paid but he is still not allowed to leave Spain”.

In other words, Captain Scapegoat remains imprisoned, although the prison is now larger, with Captain Mangouras obliged to report to a Barcelona police station each morning at 9am.

This highly experienced seaman, who wisely suggested that his troubled tanker be taken to port or beached, rather than dragged off-shore into a full storm, as the Spanish authorities insisted, has now been caged in Spain for almost a year, without trial, separated from his family and home, unable to continue his chosen career or to retire as he would have once the Prestige’s last voyage was finished. It appears that not only does Spain have little intention of facing their responsibilities with honour, but they also indulge in cruel and unusual punishments in their multiple attempts to divert attention.

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The US branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US) published a report today, The Prestige: One Year On, A Continuing Disaster,

“with both the marine environment and the fishing sector on the north-western coast of Spain still suffering from the disaster one year after the tanker sank. This conclusion comes despite claims by the Spanish government that the affected area is recovering well.”

“... damage to fishing and related economic sectors, tourism, and the natural heritage along nearly 2,000 miles of coastline polluted by the spill may last for over a decade and cost approximately $5 billion, with society at large paying some 97 percent of it.”

Further, Spain’s post-disaster investment plan for Galicia

“is likely to increase Galicia's environmental problems rather than help the province recover from its damaged environment and resources. "Until now, the Spanish government's management of the catastrophe has neither been driven by environmental criteria nor been transparent," said Raul Garcia, Marine Office at WWF-Spain and author of the report. "If the government continues to declare that the situation is under control this looks like a cover-up rather than a clean-up." ”

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Endnote to article:

3. Article in French from Sud-Ouest.

the web address for the article above is


October roundup:

  • no specific investigation—EU chickens out under Spanish pressure The temporary commission which was to “investigate the causes and consequences” of the Prestige catastrophe will now just work on “the reinforcement of marine security”.
    Why? Under the pressure of the European Popular Party (closely allied to the Spanish rulling Popular Party), the ‘President’s conference’ has weakened the temporary commission’s mandate to just looking at marine security, despite the other investigation issues having been approved by the full EU Parliament. [1]
  • tests for Prestige emptying procedure appear to be satisfactory [1]
    The residual fuel oil trickles out of the wreck through a valve into an inverted 100 - 200 tonne (huge) ‘bag’, which then is brought to the surface and taken to port by barge. The next tests [2] are to heat the oil (from 3°C to 45°C so that it can be transferred to tankers and driven to Repsol’s refinery at La Coruna.
  • Oil identified as coming from the Prestige has reached British coasts [1], specifically the Isle of Wight and the Kentish coast. This rather spoils the Spanish theory that the oil would degrade and “disappear” in the Gulf of Biscay before it ever reached the channel.
  • “Almost a year after the catastrophe, on the Galician coast, the crude oil has diminished less than anticipated [1], because previously processed petroleum is very difficult to dissolve, according to a report of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO). In addition, a complete generation of fish, molluscs and crustaceans has been lost.”
    The oil falling to the sea bottom has hardened like asphalt, preventing the depositing of eggs and larvae by fish, molluscs and crustacae, and the growth of vegetation and smaller sea animals. This will only become apparent in one to five years, depending when the fauna concerned would have matured.

the web address for the article above is


the politics of irresponsibility—
Will Spain muzzle EU investigating commission?

Recently, the Liberal Group in the EU parliament sided with Socialists and Greens to win the vote for a European Commission of Inquiry ( “temporary commission”) on the Prestige disaster.

Determining the mandate of a “temporary commission” is a preliminary step before such a commission starts its investigations. It appears that the Liberals may bow to pressure from the right-wing European Popular Party (EPP) for a “watering down” of the commission’s mandate [1], allowing the elimination of references to “the causes and consequences” of the catastrophe and limiting the commission’s work “to the reinforcement of marine security”.

(In the Spanish parliament, EPP deputies have been accused of being disloyal for allowing the creation of the commission on the Prestige.)

The European Basque Party announced that it will highlight Spanish governmental pressure for this “watering down”, particularly that of Ana Palacio, the Spanish External Affairs minister. Recall that the Prestige catastrophe has badly effected the fishing and beaches of the Basque Country, whilst the Popular Party is the ruling political party in Spain.

testing the Spanish oil salvage plan
Back at the still-leaking wreck of the Prestige [2], the “Plan Repsol” workers have determined that the oil in the Prestige has not solidified, and that it does flow out from the wreck through their special valves (of course it will, there is still plenty of oil leaking daily from the wreck). But they are having problems which, strangely, they had not predicted—bad weather, strong winds and two metre waves are impeding the next stage of the attempt to empty the oil-filled Prestige wreck. The hope is to do a test lift of a ‘bag’ filled with about 250 tonnes of the residual fuel oil, then proceed with larger amounts from next Spring.

If these tests fail, the fall-back action will be to shroud the wreck. But as yet, the appears to no discussion as to how this might be achieved, or that two coverings will be necessary, given that the two halves of the wreck are about 2 miles apart.

More criticism of Spain
The President of the Spanish Merchant Navy [2], Jose Antonio Madiedo Acosta, has spoken out against double-hulled tankers, stressing that they do not prevent accidents, they only provided added benefit in situations of “low impact” such as beaching. Acosta also pointing out the hypocrisy of the Spanish government to rail against so-called flags of convenience, while the Canary Islands are a quasi-convenience registration zone.

Nor did Spanish official methods of ship inspection escape criticism: “It is one thing to inspect the ship when it is in pristine condition, it is another to visit the ship when it is under working conditions.”

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End notes to article:

  1. News item in Spanish from El Mundo.
  2. Report in Spanish from the Spanish Merchant Marine Association.

the web address for the article above is


the politics of irresponsibility

September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003

the Prestige debacle (March 2003)

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