CAPTAIN Mangouras has waited 10 years since the Prestige oil spill to face trial in Spain.
The trial starts today (17th Oct 2012). Now 79 years old, Capt Mangouras faces up to 12 years imprisonment if convicted of environmental crimes and, along with the ship’s insurers, damages of up to US$5 billion in claims brought by the Spanish and French governments, among others. Two other officers from the vessel plus a Spanish merchant marine government official face lesser charges.
In November 2002, the Prestige reported a gash in its single hull. Some of cargo of 70,000 tons of fuel oil had started pouring out during a severe storm. Spanish authorities ordered the vessel to move away from the coast where, after 6 days of battling atrocious weather, it eventually broke up and sank, continuing to leak oil on the sea bed.
Many consider it obvious that the vessel’s demise and the extent of pollution that ensued was overwhelmingly caused by the Spanish Government’s failure to allow the vessel into a place of refuge.
The trial is expected to take many months, involving 70 lawyers and 1,500 claimants represented in 55 associations.
Activist group, Nunca Mais (Never Again), formed itself to aid in the clean-up effort. Today, hundreds of group members are protesting outside of the courthouse where the trial is being held demanding justice. Their legal team is demanding five years imprisonment for the former Spanish merchant marine government official, although he has not been charged by the state.
In many ways Capt Mangouras is the paradigm of the industry’s complaint against the unfair criminalisation of seafarers. He was imprisoned for ten months after the incident and then held in Spain under house arrest for two years. Let’s hope the Spanish legal system nowadays has no resemblance to the Spanish Inquisition. (Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WJXHY2OXGE). Joking aside, we will watch with interest.