SPANISH maritime authorities this week detained a Russian-owned ship suspected of causing pollution while sailing off Galicia, the region devastated by the Prestige spill in 2002.
The case, which comes just weeks before the expected start of the Prestige criminal trial in La Coruña, highlights Spain’s continued tough stance on marine polluters.
In the wake of the Prestige casualty, Spain took a leading role in international efforts to clamp down on polluters and to this day maintains a tight watch over vessels sailing through its waters.
But this latest incident, although not uncommon, illustrates that marine pollution remains a sensitive issue in the public eye.
Although the alleged pollution was relatively minor, the case has received wide coverage in the Spanish media at both regional and national level.
It dates back to October 21 when a patrol plane spotted a 20 km slick off Cabo Prior and identified as the most likely culprit a general cargoship, Vysokogorsk, operated by the Far Eastern Shipping Co.
When the vessel called at Algeciras several days later, maritime officials moved in.
Spain’s Merchant Marine Directorate stopped the ship and opened an investigation into the case, imposing a €150,000 ($208,000) bond for the vessel’s release and issuing a statement to announce the move.
The money, which has already been posted by the company, will cover any possible fine plus operational costs relating to the case. Should no blame be apportioned, it will be returned.
Fesco did not reply to requests from this newspaper for comment.
However, Pyotr Ositchansky, an official with the Russian seafarers’ union, was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying the situation had been exaggerated by the Spanish authorities.