02 Desember 2013

[021213.EN.SEA] Spanish Prosecutors Appeal Against Prestige Oil Spill Officers' Acquittal

SPANISH prosecutors have appealed against the acquittal of the three officers of the 81,589-dwt Prestige that sank off Spain's northwest coast 11 years ago, polluting miles of coastline and beaches in Spain, France and Portugal.

The appeal states that penal responsibility for environmental crime had not been taken into sufficient consideration. The prosecutor said that an overall assessment had not been made of the "penal aspects connected with environmental crimes and the damage done".

The appeal "insists on the need for civil liability, if there is any, to be met by those responsible for the disaster, in line with the constitution", in defence of "social interests" and on the request of Spanish and French victims.

In addition to his acquittal, Prestige captain, Apostolos Mangouras, 78, was given a suspended sentence due to his advanced age - of nine months in prison for "serious disobedience", since he had initially refused to have the tanker towed away from the coast. The prosecution had asked for sentences of between four and 12 years in jail, reported London's Tanker Operator.

Earlier, industry association Intertanko expressed "deep disappointment" over the conviction of Capt Mangouras for "serious disobedience" for refusing an order to move his ship out to sea.

"We are deeply disappointed that Capt Mangouras was convicted as criminally responsible for disobedience during the incident and that he has been sentenced to nine months in prison," said the Intertanko statement.

The sentence is unlikely to be served because he already spent two years in jail awaiting trial until the vessel's P&I Club put up EUR3 million (US$4.4 million) as bail.

Intertanko said conviction and sentencing "inexcusable and fundamentally wrong", setting a precedent for the treatment as criminals of ships' masters who try to do their best for seafarers, ship and environment when under extreme adverse circumstances.

"His actions have been described as 'exemplary' by the vessel's flag state [Liberia], and yet he has been outrageously treated as a criminal," said the group statement.

"Confronted with refusal by the Spanish authorities to give the damaged ship refuge, Capt Mangouras had done everything possible to protect crew, ship and cargo and to protect the environment by minimising pollution - including remaining on board with [chief engineer Nikolaos] Argyropoulos after the crew had been evacuated to try and save the ship," said Intertanko.

Captain Mangouras asked to land his vessel, which had a crack in its hull. But Spanish authorities refused and told him to go farther out to sea. France and Portugal also denied access.

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.

Source : HKSG.

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