Oil Spill Captain Acquitted of Charges

I am sure everyone knows about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, but most of us probably do not know about Spain’s major oil spill back in 2002, so here is a little treat for those who are environmentally enthusiastic.

Back in 2002, the oil tanker “Prestige” navigating through the northwest coast of Spain, faced a powerful storm in an area known as “The Coast of Death”, famous for numerous shipwrecks. The ship reported to Spanish authorities that it had a gash in its hull and its cargo of 70,000 tons of oil had started spilling out. Thereafter, Spanish authorities ordered the ship to move off the coast but it struggled for a few days and eventually split in two sinking into the bottom of the Atlantic. Much of the oil went on to the coast of Spain and France blackening hundreds of miles of coastline.

Now a decade later, the Greek captain of the ship, Apostolos Mangouras, began his trial facing environmental charges with prison sentences of 12 years. And this past Wednesday, the captain was found not guilty of any environmental crimes. He was however found guilty of a lesser crime of disobeying orders of Spanish authorities that tried to save the ship. This crime sentenced him only to 9 months in jail.

In the court’s words, “No one knows with certainty what could be the cause of what happened, nor what should have been the appropriate response to the emergency situation created by the serious problem of the Prestige,” the verdict reads. “But no one can deny the structural problem, nor could they show during the trial where that problem occurred exactly or why”. This court reasoned that because the finger could not be pointed at a particular person or specific cause that there is no criminal liability and the captain is free of all charges. I would agree with the court if the oil spill was a clear accident but I do not see it that way. The ship was navigating through “the coast of death”, an area known for shipwrecks, which I am sure any captain would know the danger of traveling through the area. I just think that the maybe it was the prosecution who failed to bring or point to specific evidence of why the oil spill happened, nevertheless I do not agree with the Spanish Court because this oil spill of nearly a decade ago, just like BP’s, is a tremendous environmental disaster with dead fish and blackened birds and seals as a painful reminder and someone should be responsible. This clearly shows that Spain is not ready to judge an environmental catastrophe nor defend the environment.

Do you believe that the Court was right to rule the way it did because it could not point the finger to anyone?

Do you agree/disagree that not being able to point the finger to someone/something, the court is deeming this incident as an accident?


Source: CNN; Yahoo News

Picture: Times

One comment

  1. I think the court ruled correctly in this matter. Although someone should be held responsible for the environmental disaster that occurred, I do not believe that it should be the captain of the ship. With the information given regarding how the ship wreck occurred, it does not seem that it was the captain’s fault. It could have been a multitude of things that caused the ship wreck such as a mechanical malfunction or even improper inspection of the ship by the company. The responsibilities of being a captain comes with the baggage of being responsible if something happens to the ship. However, this situation is different because it does not seem like it was anything that the captain had done that caused the ship to spill oil. If anyone should be held responsible it should be the ship or oil company for allowing this boat to embark on travel without proper pre-voyage inspection.

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