Ecological disaster looms as oil tanker starts to break up off coast of Spain

The stricken oil tanker Prestige was breaking up and in danger of sinking off the Spanish coast last night, as Madrid and London clashed over responsibility for the spillage that threatens ecological disaster to a major fishing region.

Tugs had hauled the vessel with 77,000 tons of sulphur-rich oil aboard, 65 miles from the coast of Galicia, leaving two large slicks behind. But as a 35-metre crack in the hull appeared and widened, the three crew-members still on board were helicoptered to safety in La Coruna. Spain's Deputy Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, said the Bahamas-flagged Prestige had docked in Gibraltar on 13 June, and was heading back to the British colony from Latvia when it ran into difficulties on Wednesday in a storm off north-western Spain.

The Spanish EU Transport Commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, said yesterday: "We are dealing with yet another case of tax evasion, contraband and inappropriate activities by Gibraltar."

She condemned "flags of convenience and unscrupulous people who run ships that are veritable ecological timebombs". She suggested that Britain might be fined for "failing to carry out its responsibilities" in connection with the crippled vessel.

Mr Rajoy said he would ask Britain to explain "the non-compliance of community laws in the port of Gibraltar", since the Prestige took on fuel there and was subjected to no checks.

"The ship's Greek owners confirmed that Gibraltar was its final destination," Mr Rajoy said. The Gibraltar government yesterday denied it had any obligation to check the vessel, and denounced what it called European Union "suspicions" as "grave abuses".

Spain yesterday issued a diplomatic protest to Greece, Latvia, the US, the Bahamas and Britain. Britain's ambassador to Madrid, Peter Torry, insisted the ageing tanker had never docked in Gibraltar, an assertion denied by the Spanish merchant navy.

Mr Torry said the Prestige remained anchored off the Girbaltarian coast for six hours with the only purpose of loading fuel for its own motors.

"In these circumstances, there is no obligation whatever, either in the EU or international framework to submit the vessel to a routine inspection," he said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Programme Manager

£30000 - £35500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Provisioning Specialist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Provisioning Specialist is required to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Apprenticeships

£10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an outstanding opportunity for 1...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Support Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Support Engineer is required to join a well-...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum