Prestige Oil Spill Trial Begins

10 years after the Prestige oil spill off the Spanish coast, four men, including the vessel’s Master, went on trial last week in a northern Spanish Court. The Prestige oil spill is claimed to have caused the worst oil slick in Spain’s history, as 50,000 tonnes of fuel oil was dumped into the sea.

Apostolos Mangouras, 78, the ‘Prestige’s’ Greek Master, is charged alongside two other officers and a Spanish official over the oil spill, which polluted thousands of kilometres of beaches in Spain, Portugal and France.

Prosecutors are demanding 12 years’ jail for Mangouras, who is charged with harming the environment along with Greek chief engineer Nikolaos Argyropoulos and first mate Irineo Maloto, a Filipino who was not apprehended. The fourth defendant is Jose Luis Lopez-Sors, head of the Spanish merchant navy at the time, who ordered the ship out to sea when it was leaking the fuel oil.

Environmental groups complained that key people responsible for the disaster were not brought to trial and warned that the lessons from the disaster had not been learnt. According to environmentalists the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who was deputy prime minister at the time of the accident, is among those who should be held accountable for his government’s handling of the accident, Rajoy initially downplayed the seriousness of the accident, repeatedly describing the black spots that appeared in the sea where the tanker went down as “small threads of clay”. Environmentalists also claimed that charges should be brought against ABS, the tanker’s class society.

The total cost of the environmental damage caused by the oil slick has been calculated at more than €4 bill, most of it for the Spanish state. The Prestige Oil spil leaked 50,000 tonnes of fuel into the Atlantic after it sank off northern Spain.

The trial is due to last until May 2013 and will hear testimony from 133 witnesses and 100 experts, the Court said.

Sources: Tanker Operator, ABS- CBN News

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