Tag Archives: oil spill

THE “PRESTIGE” TRIAL || Captain criticizes Spain

Ten years after one of Europe’s worst oil disasters, the captain of the Prestige tanker blamed Spain for sending his vessel away from the coast and into the stormy Atlantic.

Facing trial a decade to the day after his tanker sent an SOS that heralded the biggest oil spill in Spanish history, the 77-year-old Greek skipper criticised the decisions taken by the Spanish authorities.

“The ship was cracked and they sent it out to the ocean,” said the captain, Apostolos Mangouras. “It was the worst alternative. They sent us in a floating coffin … to drown.”

Mangouras said that on November 15, two days after sending a distress signal, the Prestige was expecting a storm.

“Where were we going? Eight souls were aboard,” he told the prosecutor.

The captain said he did not specifically ask to go into port because he believed the tanker was being sent to shelter.

But after passing the Galician peninsula of Cape Finisterre, he said: “I realised that they were sending the boat out to the ocean.”

Mangouras said he had visually checked the hull and ballast tanks before departing Saint Petersburg two months beforehand.

He and the Philippine crew held all the required qualifications, he said.

The ill-fated tanker’s skipper was the first of four accused to testify in the trial over the catastrophe in which tens of thousands of tonnes of thick, sticky oil oozed across the coasts of Spain, Portugal and France.

Prosecutors have charged the captain with criminal damage of the environment and a protected nature reserve and are seeking a combined jail term of 12 years.

They are also demanding more than 4bn euros ($5.0bn) in damages.

Outside the exhibition centre where the trial is being held in the northern port city of A Coruna, Greenpeace activists hung a huge yellow banner asking “Where are the guilty?” along with photographs of various politicians.

Among the photographs was one of right-leaning Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who at the time was deputy prime minister and initially downplayed the gravity of the accident, repeatedly describing the black spots that appeared in the sea where the tanker went down as “small threads of clay”.

The Prestige, a Bahamas-flagged Liberian tanker, was carrying 77,000 tonnes of fuel when it sent a distress call in the midst of a storm off the northwestern Spanish coast on November 13, 2002.

The conservative government in power at the time ordered the Prestige out to sea away from the Spanish coast instead of following an emergency contingency plan prepared by experts that called for it to be brought to port where the leaking oil could be confined.

For six days the tanker drifted in the Atlantic, its hull torn by a leak, before breaking up and foundering 250km off the coast into waters some 4,000m deep, spilling some 50,000 tonnes of oil into the ocean and coastline.

Others charged are Greek chief engineer Nikolaos Argyropoulos and first mate Irineo Maloto, a Filipino whose whereabouts are unknown, and Jose Luis Lopez-Sors, head of the Spanish merchant navy at the time, who ordered the ship out to sea when it was losing fuel.

The trial is due to last until May and hear testimony from 133 witnesses and 100 experts.

Source: http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=543743&version=1&template_id=39&parent_id=21


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OIL SPILLS: Brazil’s federal police seek to indict Chevron, Transocean officials

By Bruno Marfinati and Reese Ewing

SAO PAULO, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Federal police in Brazil on Wednesday recommended the indictment of several Chevron and Transocean officials involved in an oil spill in early November for environmental crimes and withholding information in an investigation.

The indictment is unrelated to a civil suit brought against the companies by a public prosecutor on Dec. 14, seeking fines of $11 billion for their alleged roles in the spill at Chevron’s Frade field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

This latest legal action against Chevron, the No. 2 U.S. oil company, and Transocean, one of the world’s biggest drillers, for a 3,000-barrel spill that never reached Brazilian beaches highlights the major political risks of operating in Brazil.

Head of the investigation for the federal police in Rio de Janeiro Fabio Scliar said on Wednesday he submitted his report to the Federal Public Ministry recommending that it bring charges against the two companies and its employees.

“I affirmed my conviction … of environmental crimes and withholding information,” Scliar told Reuters by phone.

Employees of the two companies, including Chevron’s Brazil Chief Executive George Buck, could face charges if the federal prosecutor’s office, which is in recess until 2012, accepts Scliar’s recommendations and pursues them in the courts.

Scliar said the companies were increasing the risks of an environmental accident in drilling.

“They were betting on luck and lost, which caused this whole problem that led to environmental losses of grand proportions,” Scliar said.

Chevron said it was advised the police were seeking indictments against its employees in Brazil, but that it believes these “are without merit,” a company spokesman said.

“We will vigorously defend the company and its employees,” spokesman Kurt Glaubitz said in an email. “The facts … will demonstrate that Chevron responded appropriately and responsibly.”

Representatives from Transocean also said the indictments were groundless and that the facts would exonerate the company and employees when fully examined.

Although such alleged crimes could carry sentences of over 10 years, according to some experts, it is unlikely any of the employees of Chevron or Transocean would spend time in jail.

Soon after announcing a series of stunning discoveries in 2006 and 2007 that would become known worldwide, Chief Executive Jose Sergio Gabrielli at the state-controlled oil company Petrobras said exploration of the massive offshore subsalt deposits was virtually without risk.

The storm that Chevron’s relatively small spill last month has caused in the local courts will cast a pall over one of the most promising new oil frontiers in decades and gives investors reason for pause before they pay top dollar for offshore blocks that concession holders are looking to farm out.

Source: http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFL1E7NM0AK20111222?sp=true

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MARITIME NEWS | India: 113,000 tons of oil spilled along the coastline in 29 years

The Indian Coast Guard, designated as the first response agency to combat oil spills in our territorial waters, has released some startling statistics. Over 60,000 tonnes of crude oil has been spilt into the Arabian Sea in the last 29 years, sparking concern over the irreversible damage to marine life.

The spill in the Arabian Sea caused by 23 ship accidents since 1982, amounts to over half the total oil spilt along the entire Indian coastline. Close to 113,000 tonnes of oil has been spilled along the country’s coastline due to 74 ship accidents in the same time frame.

“Things have been particularly bad in the last two years. The oil spill from MV Rak earlier this month, was the second successive blow for the Mumbai coast in the monsoon, which is breeding season for a majority of the marine species. Last August, MV Chitra spilt over 800 tonnes of oil into the Arabian Sea. There is a limit to which ecological balance can be maintained. Once damaged, it may take years to recuperate,” said Deepak Apte, deputy director of BNHS’s conservation department.

Maritime expert Joseph Fonseca, who procured these figures from the Coast Guard (Sunday Mid Day has a copy), said the number of vessels docking into the two city ports is on the rise. A dearth of experienced seafarers implied that accidents are bound to escalate. “Marine officers attain the rank of Captain in barely six to eight years, while in the past, they could only command a ship after 12 to 15 years. A lack of experience could be one of the causes for an increase in these accidents,” said Fonseca.

Captain Dinesh Jairam, a senior maritime professional, who has been in the industry for 30 years, agreed. According to him, qualified seafarers were opting for shore jobs, which has led to a dearth of experienced seafarers on the ship.

“Over 70 per cent of accidents at sea are due to human error. In spite of all the technological advancements in the navigation sector, at the end of the day, all machines are operated by humans, who must have the right expertise,” he said.

President Indian National Ship-owners Association for Mumbai Sabyasacchi Hajara said one reason for senior mariners taking shore jobs could be that India is a growing economy. “Though life at sea is more comfortable compared than it was, if seafarers find lucrative shore jobs that do not involve long time spans away from family, it is natural that they would opt for those.”

According to Chairman of the Maritime Association of Shipowners Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA) Captain Shyam Jairam, the only remedy is adequate training and mentoring to curb human error.

Disaster timeline
MV Rak sank in the Arabian Sea on August 4, 2011. Had 60,000 tonnes of coal and at least 300 tonnes of fuel oil. Two tonnes of oil has been leaking into the sea every hour since August 6. There are reports that another vessel is presently drifting towards Mumbai.

MV Pavit abandoned off the Oman coast on June 29, 2011 drifted to Mumbai and was grounded at Juhu Versova beach on July 31.

MV Wisdom owned by a Singapore company lost her tow 10 nautical miles off Mumbai on June 11, 2011. It was grounded at Juhu beach. Though oil slick was observed on the beach, there are no confirmed reports on how much was spilt.

January 30, 2011 naval vessel INS Vindhagiri suffered damage after a Cyprus flag merchant ship MV Nordlake collided with it at the entrance of Mumbai harbour.

Source: http://www.mid-day.com/news/2011/aug/210811-Mumbai-coast-Ship-Drowning-Oil-spill.htm

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SHEN NENG 1 | Report praises response, considers future oil spills ‘inevitable’

Originally published in Tradewinds, 2010/10/06

“Significant environmental damage” from the grounding of a Chinese bulk carrier on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef earlier this year was prevented by an “immediate, extensive and effective” response.

Oil spills are, however, “inevitable” off the country’s coast, an independent report into the April grounding of the 70,200-dwt Shen Neng 1 (built 1993) found.

The China-flagged panamax was fully laden with coal when it grounded on Douglas Shoal off Queensland on 3 April. Between three and four tons of heavy fuel oil were spilled before the ship was refloated nine days later.

However, the situation could have been far worse were it not for the fact that “Queensland was well prepared” for the situation following an incident involving the 3,700-dwt Pacific Adventurer (now-Pacific Mariner, built 1991) off the state a year earlier.

The Shen Neng 1 grounding “could have caused significant environmental damage” resulting in 975 tons of heavy fuel oil and some 65,000 tons of coal being spilled, the report written by Graham Miller read.

“Although the vessel’s crew were in shock and initial reports from the vessel were unclear, early situational awareness was developed by the responding agencies,” it read.

However, “the operations achieved a positive outcome as a direct result of the immediate, extensive and effective incident response” which Miller also termed “well-resourced and well executed”.

The report pointed to the reasonably favourable location of the casualty site close to the port of Gladstone while weather conditions during the casualty were “generally favourable”.

The report was not designed to study the causes of the grounding but issued a warning to agencies that it was unlikely to be the last such incident in the state’s waters.

The incident, it wrote, “highlights the vulnerability of Queensland’s coastline to a significant oil spill incident. Increased shipping movements and the continued likelihood of severe climactic events suggests that the threat of marine oil spills will remain and that future oil spills are inevitable.”

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OFFSHORE | BP forms ‘powerful’ new safety unit

Originally published in bbc.co.uk, 2010/09/29

BP has formed a new unit to oversee safety across the company following the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

The oil giant says the division will have “sweeping powers”, including the authority to intervene in operations to uphold safety standards.

Mark Bly, who headed BP’s internal investigation into the hugely damaging US oil spill, will run the new unit.

He will report directly to Bob Dudley, who takes over as chief executive on 1 October.

BP hopes the new unit, along with a number of other organisational changes, will help rebuild trust in the company.

It is also splitting its Upstream business into three divisions – Exploration, Development and Production.

As part of the reorganisation, it will examine how it manages third-party contractors.

BP’s internal investigation, published last month, blamed a “sequence of failures involving a number of different parties” for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

It said it was responsible in part for the disaster, but also placed some blame on other companies working on the well.

Safeseas note 1: to learn more about the “blame” of other companies, I would suggest this BBC’s article: Who’s blamed by BP for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Safeseas note 2: in such big, high-profile disasters, one has to be very careful to avoid the trap of blame. The “blame game” creates an hostile environment to the progress of safety.

Safeseas note 3: 11 men died as a result of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. This should not be forgotten.

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SAFETY | BP and truth

Finger-pointing, BP style (Houston Chronicle)


It doesn’t qualify as light summer reading, but BP’s report on the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in April figures to be a page-turner for interested parties in many law offices and corporate suites around Houston and in other oil and gas centers globally. And in more than a few corners of Washington, D.C.

Early reviews of the BP document are in and, no surprise, they’re less than kind.

The oil giant is accused of using the long-awaited report as a launching pad for its complicated legal defense and as a platform to shift blame for the tragedy to others involved. Would anyone have seriously expected something different?

The most succinct response to the report we’ve seen was offered by Chronicle cartoonist Nick Anderson, who morphed the ubiquitous BP flower symbol into petals shaped like pointing fingers in Thursday’s cartoon.

Yes, the BP fingers were pointing: At Transocean, which owned the rig; at Halliburton, which performed cement jobs on the well; and at Cameron, which built the blowout preventer that failed to stop the fatal explosion.

Almost immediately, fingers were pointed back at BP by the accused. And so it is likely to go as other studies of the accident are made public. The legal jousting is likely to play out over years, if not decades, experts reckon, and cost the litigants millions in fees and perhaps billions in damages.

Like most, we’ve spent our summer watching the spill drama play out. Along the way, we’ve been visited by oil and gas industry leaders and other knowledgeable insiders passing through town. Some have dropped by for meetings with the editorial board on spill-related business; others on unrelated errands.

In one way or another, the spill has always come up, and we could not help but notice an informal consensus about BP emerging among these insiders that must be addressed. It is a concern that the company’s corporate culture played a role, perhaps a large one, in setting up the circumstances that led to tragedy on April 20.

For the sake of the survival of the entire offshore industry, that subject must be addressed without flinching.

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Study: Oil spill cleanup workers suffered chromosome damage, respiratory issues

Spanish fishermen who took part in a clean-up operation after the Prestige oil tanker spill in 2002 have shown symptoms of chromosomal damage and respiratory problems, a study released Tuesday said.

The study, conducted by Spanish researchers between September 2004 and February 2005 on 501 fishermen who helped clean up Europe’s worst oil spill, was published in the American review Annals of Internal Medicine.

On November 19, 2002 Liberian-flagged oil tanker the Prestige broke up and sank off Galicia in northwestern Spain, a region famed for its pristine coastline and ecological diversity.

The ship spewed 64,000 tonnes of thick, heavy fuel oil into the waters, polluting thousands of kilometres (miles) along the Atlantic coast of France, Spain and Portugal.

The Spanish study said “those who participated in the clean-up had a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms, higher levels of markers suggestive of airway injury in exhaled breath condensate, and chromosomal alterations in lymphocytes compared with those who did not participate in clean-up activities.”

It said “chromosomal damage in circulating lymphocytes is an early marker of genotoxicity associated with increased risk for cancer.”

It concluded that “participation in clean-up of a major oil spill seemed to have adverse health effects.”

But it warned that “the study does not prove that oil exposure caused the abnormalities.”

And it said “the findings cannot be extrapolated to spills of other types of oil” and “therefore cannot predict what effects individuals exposed to other oil spills, such as that in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere, might experience.”

But the researchers urged that “the authorities responsible for organizing (oil) clean-up operations take appropriate measures to guarantee the health protection of those involved in the clean-up activities and establish registries to systematically assess possible adverse health outcomes in exposed workers over time.”

Source: Agence France-Presse

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