France, Spain combat oil spill off Galician coast

France is cooperating with Spain to contain a fuel oil spill off Galicia, Spain, by the endangered Prestige tanker, which was damaged during a strong storm a few kilometers offshore.

By an OGJ correspondent

PARIS, Nov. 15 -- France is cooperating with Spain to contain a fuel oil spill off Galicia, Spain, by the endangered Prestige tanker, which was damaged during a strong storm a few kilometers offshore.
Already 1,500 tonnes of oil have leaked from two damaged tanks, and there is a risk of the tanker breaking in half. The tanker, sailing under the Bahamas flag and belonging to Greek shipowners, had left Latvia and reportedly was sailing towards Gibraltar carrying 77,000 tonnes of fuel oil.
A Franco-Spanish emergency plan has been set up to prevent the vessel from sinking and causing a massive pollution of Spain's coastline. The plan involves both air and maritime antipollution measures.

A French navy vessel was sent from Brest, and a Falcon-50 aircraft and two other aircraft belonging to the French customs services have also been engaged. The owners of the tanker have called upon the Dutch salvage company SMT to begin recovery operations. The tanker, with Spanish rescue personnel and four crew members aboard, is being towed to the high seas. The oil slick was 37 km long at presstime today.
The Spanish government has started legal action against Latvia and Greece and has lodged a complaint with the European Union Commission, which has asked the UK for an explanation. Spain said it might go so far as to sanction the UK (which owns Gibraltar), because the tanker has several times delivered oil there. The UK government said there is no evidence the tanker was bound for Gibraltar and may have been headed for the Far East, Reuters reported.
The single-hull tanker was built in 1976 in Japan and is one of the oldest tankers in service. It had already been sanctioned for its safety risk both in Rotterdam and New York in 1999. The EU has banned single-hull tankers, but that ban won't take full effect until 2015.

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