ICS: Was the Prestige Ruling Reached in a Fair Trial?

The judgement of the Spanish Supreme Court made in January 2016 in the Prestige oil spill case has raised fundamental questions as to whether it was reached in a fair trial, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said.

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 Apostolos Ioannis Mangouras, ICS said. At the same time, the Supreme Court confirmed the acquittal of the Spanish civil servant.

“The Supreme Court’s decision was extremely surprising in that it overturned a lower court’s acquittal of the Master, in his absence, and without hearing any new evidence as to his knowledge about the condition of the ship. This raises fundamental questions as to whether it was a fair trial,” ICS statement said.

ICS said that it fears that that the entire system of efficient compensation for oil spills could be put in serious jeopardy because of unsound decisions being made by national courts.

“This judgement overturned that of a lower Spanish Court, in La Coruña in 2013, instead finding the Master criminally liable for damages to the environment and sentencing him to two years’ imprisonment (albeit likely to be suspended),” ICS said.

The captain, the British insurer and the owner of the Prestige tanker that sank in 2002 off Galicia, Spain, were found guilty for one of Europe’s worst environmental disasters, the Spanish Supreme Court earlier said.

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, as it suffered a fracture in its starboard side due to rough seas while it was sailing some 27.5 miles west of Finisterre, Spain.

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.

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