Oil Tanker Sinks Off Coast of Spain

The last remaining wreckage of the oil tanker, Prestige, carrying more than 70,000 tons of fuel oil sank off Spain on Tuesday, according to a spokesman from Smit Salvage. The Prestige ran into trouble last Wednesday during a storm along the northwest coast of Spain that is also known as the "Coast of Death" because of the many shipwrecks that have occurred there.


Oil has been washing up on beaches in Galicia and raising fears of an ecological disaster. Environmentalists warn that if the entire cargo spills, the resulting damage could be double that caused in the Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska in 1989 - one of the worst ever. The Spanish authorities have suspended fishing along the 100-kilometer stretch of coastline from Roncudo to Cape Tourinan, and financial compensation has been promised to local fishermen.

The ship, owned by the Liberian-registered company Mare Shipping Inc., was bound for Singapore when the storm hit. Spanish authorities asserted the Prestige hadn't been inspected since 1999, despite regular stops in the British colony of Gibraltar a charge that Britain denied. The company said this was the first time such problems had occurred with the vessel. "There has been no instance that which led to a pollution," said a spokesman The last port state control inspection was in 1999 and its last annual inspection was in May 2002, the spokesman added. Every five years it is dry-docked for a full inside and outside inspection and the last one was in May 2001, he added. The Greek captain of the vessel, Apostolos Mangouras, has been remanded into custody, accused of failing to cooperate with salvage crews and harming the environment.