A SPANISH court has found the crew of the tanker Prestige and the Spanish Merchant Navy not guilty for criminal responsibility in the sinking of the oil tanker on 13th November, 2002, reports London's Tanker Operator.
The 81,589-dwt Prestige sank off Spain's northwestern coast and polluted thousands of miles of coastline and beaches in Spain, France and Portugal - prompting Spain to close its fishing grounds for six months. The single-hull tanker was transporting 77,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil.
Prestige Captain Apostolos Mangouras asked to land his vessel which had a crack in its hull. However, but Spanish authorities refused and told him to go farther out to sea. France and Portugal also denied access.
Less than a week later, after a storm, the hull broke in half the cargo entered the sea off Spain's coast. Capt Mangouras was then arrested for "not co-operating" with salvage crews and causing environmental damage.
After an 11-year investigation, a Spanish court said that the disaster was partly due to the 26-year-old tanker's poor state of repair. Spain was also unsuccessful in suing owners ABS for the condition of the ship.
The court ruled it was impossible to establish criminal responsibility and Capt Mangouras, Chief Engineer Nikolaos Argyropoulos and the former head of Spain's Merchant Navy, Jose Luis Lopez, were not guilty of crimes against the environment.
But Capt Mangouras was found guilty of "disobedience" and given a nine-month suspended sentence.
The ruling said the Spanish authorities were right to order the vessel out to sea, adding that the leak was caused by deficient maintenance, which the crew did not know about.
Source : HKSG.