Spain to Appeal Prestige Oil Spill Ruling

The Prestige tanker nearly broken in two off the coast of Spain in November 2002.
The Prestige tanker nearly broken in two off the coast of Spain in November 2002.

The Spanish government on Monday announced its plans to appeal part of a recent court ruling that cleared all three defendants, including the Captain and Chief Engineer, of charges and liability in connection to the 2002 Prestige oil tanker sinking and oil spill.

As gCaptain reported, Spain’s high court last week acquitted Captain Apostolos Mangouras, Chief Engineer Nikolaos Argyropoulos and the former head of Spain’s Merchant Navy, Jose Luis Lopez, of charges of crime against the environment and cleared them of civil liability after 11 years of litigation, although upheld a lesser charge against Captain Mangouras of disobedience and sentenced him to a nine month suspended sentence.

The 26-year-old, single-hulled tanker suffered damaged to one of its fuel tanks during a storm on November 14, 2002 while carrying 77,000 tons of heavy fuel oil. Knowing the danger, the Captain tried to seek shelter in a Spanish port but was refused by the authorities and ordered back out to sea. The ship broke up six days later, resulting in one of Europe’s worst environmental disasters as oil washed up along the shores of Spain, France and Portugal.

Spain’s appeal would seek damages to cover the cost of cleanup.

“The government has decided to launch an appeal, not against the criminal responsibility of the captain of the Prestige, but against the exemption from civil liability,” Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said, according to a report by the AFP. The goal of the appeal is “to insist on the need for civil liability, if there is any, to be met by those responsible for the disaster,” Ruiz-Gallardon added.

The AFP report says that president of Spain’s Galicia region, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, explained separately that the central government’s appeal aimed “to recover the money invested by Spain” in cleaning up the spill.

The court ruling put the cost of the disaster at more than $494 million to the Spanish state, $190 million to the Spanish region of Galicia and $91 million to France, the report said.