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Chapter 3. Oil Spills


Key words and terms:


Oil spill Compensation Crude
Leak, leakage Mandatory Endanger
Founder Plight Halt
Pressure Threaten Hull
Wreck, wreckage Maintenance Decimate
Slick Vulnerable Aground
Split Vessel Divert
Volunteer Refinery  

Text 13. Prestige Oil Spill


During the 20th century, more than 200 petrol tankers sank - many of these resulting in ecological disasters. Each day, more than 6,000 petrol tankers are roaming the seas some of them in a dangerous condition.

The Prestige catastrophe highlights the problems surrounding the regulation of maritime transport of oil and petrol. This accident happened on November, 13 2002 near Galicia. The Prestige, a 26-year-old, single-hulled tanker, which was carrying more than 77,000 tons (20.5 million gallons) of oil, got caught in a storm, foundered in heavy seas and split in two. It sank on November, 19 about 75 miles offshore taking most of its heavy fuel oil down some 3,000 metres (9,750 feet) to the bottom. Experts warned that some of that oil would eventually leak from the vessel under such an enormous amount of pressure, threatening a major ecological disaster.

The tanker Prestige was owned by one Liberian ship company called Mare International and registered in the Bahamas (with the Bahamas Maritime Authority). The latter is based in the City of London. The oily mud now leaking from the Prestige was owned by an oil trading company called Crown Resources. Crown Resources is in turn owned by a fascinating Russian conglomerate called the Alfa Group Consortium.

The wreck of the tanker could turn into a long-term source of pollution, worsening the plight of fishermen in Galicia in northwest Spain, already devastated by fuel oil spilled by the tanker before it broke in two. The tanker was carrying the amount of oil about twice that spilled from the Exxon Valdez when it ran aground in Alaska in 1989. The Prestige catastrophe was the second oil tanker disaster off Europe's Atlantic coast in three years; in December 1999 the tanker Erika split in two, polluting large sections of the French coastline.

The aftermath of this catastrophe was destructive for the environment. More than 550 miles of the total 695 miles of coastline was closed to fishing. More than 21,500 fishermen and shellfish gatherers were out of work and eligible for aid. Hundreds of sea birds were killed or coated with oil. Communities affected by oil spills experienced feelings of "distress and despair" that were "similar to coming home to find that it has been burgled and vandalized".

Salvage workers tried to do everything they could to save these animals as they struggled to survive the devastating impact oil had on them. A lot of people took part in saving nature. Soldiers cleaned the beach. Volunteers and navy cadets battled to clean up the Atlantic Islands national park off Spain's western coast, the home to otters and seabirds. Portuguese emergency workers set up booms to try to seal off key fisheries and nature reserves from possible oil slicks. Volunteers carried buckets of washed-up oil from the beach at Muxia, in Galicia. France was on alert in case the slick reached its coast.

Galician fishermen worried about the potential for years of bad harvests from contamination that already prompted a ban on fishing and shellfish gathering along 310 miles of coast. The initial damage was estimated to be $42 million. The costs of damage to fishing and tourism over a period of years will be assessed, as the oil damage is unlikely to be limited to a few months immediately following the spill.

On behalf of more than five million coastal inhabitants, it was called for major reform of compensation regimes for pollution. Three main factors affecting the risk of shipping disasters are the design of ships, the maintenance of ships and the controls on where ships can go. If you get one of these things wrong you can have a disaster on your hands. It seems that in the case of the Prestige, all three factors had a role in what went wrong.

It is necessary to have regulation of shipping in vulnerable marine areas. The World Wildlife Fund's four point plan of action covers:

- Conducting analysis to identify areas believed to be particularly sensitive and vulnerable to shipping.

- Designating, through the International Maritime Organization, those sites that qualify as Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas or PSSAs.

- Introducing and enforcing strict regulations tailored for each PSSA including: banning single-hulls vessels in these areas; identifying areas to be avoided or recommended routes; requiring experienced pilots on board when ships have to pass through these areas; or requiring mandatory reporting as ships transit sensitive areas; and

- Improving maintenance and inspection globally of all vessels, but particularly those single-hulled vessels approaching their decommissioning age.

Exercise 1. Render the text according to the plan:

1) The history of the Prestige accident.

2) The owners of the ship and oil.

3) The impact on the environment.

4) Rescue attempts.

5) The estimation of the damage.

6) Regulations of shipping in vulnerable areas.


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1692

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