The ruling that overturned the judgment by the Provincial Court of La Coruña (Galicia) in the Prestige oil spill case is a proof of the ill-treatment of seafarers, European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) said in a joint statement.
Judges of the Spanish Supreme Court have convicted Captain Apostolos Ioannis Mangouras of gross negligence for his decisions during the voyage and his actions as events unfolded.
The Supreme Court’s judgement was reached after just one day, without hearing any new evidence and in the absence of the tanker’s captain. At the same time, the Supreme Court confirmed the acquittal of the Spanish civil servant.
ETF and ECSA said that they “cannot accept that seafarers should have to pay such a heavy price whilst the Maritime Authority, who had been exempted from any liability, ordered the vessel away from any port of refuge, with well-known catastrophic effects upon the natural environment.”
Additionally, the Social Partners said that such a ruling could impact negatively on the attractiveness of a seafaring career and hence on the future recruitment of young competent seafarers.
“ETF and ECSA sincerely hope that this wholly unjustified sentence will not be served,” the Social Partners said.
In January, the court sentenced the tanker’s captain to two years in prison, while Mare Shipping, the owner of the 81,000-dwt tanker, the mutual insurance company The London P&I Club, and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) were also found liable for the disaster.
The 1976-built tanker sank on November 13, 2002, after it was refused a place of refuge by the Spanish authorities.
Some 63,000 tons of fuel were discharged into the sea following the accident, while the total damage cost of the oil spill was estimated at USD 4.4 billion.