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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Prestige tanker accident off coast of Galicia

INTERTANKO received the alert that the Prestige was in trouble in the evening of 13 November. The ship was at that time reported to be listing 25 to 30 degrees and in danger of sinking with its 77,000 ton cargo of fuel oil in rough seas off the north-west Spanish coast. Helicopters had evacuated 27 crew members from the vessel. Contact was quickly established with the INTERTANKO member operating the tanker - Universe Maritime Ltd.- and the other entities involved, who have kept INTERTANKO up to date on developments throughout the duration of this incident. It eventually ended in the loss of the ship after she broke in two at 7am GMT on 19 November some 100 miles from shore. The two parts of the ship sank later in the afternoon that day with no loss of life.

INTERTANKO initially maintained a low profile, monitoring the situation and preparing to address any industry-wide aspects, while assistance was offered to the member. In the initial stages response statements were available which noted with concern the incident involving the tanker Prestige, which had encountered problems in rough seas of the coast of Spain near Galicia in the Bay of Biscay. We also acknowledged that INTERTANKO had been in contact with the operator Universe Maritime Ltd., who informed that a salvage operation has been initiated and that the tanker was under tow. We furthermore noted that the Master and several crew members had returned to the ship to attempt to gain control of her again. We pointed out that the cause of the problem was not yet known and that some oil had been spotted around the ship, but the extent of the pollution had not been determined. Finally we pointed out that INTERTANKO was monitoring the situation and was awaiting a more detailed report of the incident. Most regrettably a large area of the Spanish shoreline has been affected by oil from the ship, but the full extent of the pollution is difficult to assess at this stage, although there is the potential present for a very substantial pollution impact.

INTERTANKO established early contact with the European Commission and communicated updated information on developments as events unfolded. Follow up meetings with EC officials are scheduled to take place during the coming week.

Over the past week senior staff in INTERTANKO have handled in excess of 200 media enquiries and provided industry statistics and INTERTANKO positions, and background information on inter alia the IMO, places of refuge and the pollution compensation system.

An overview of the statements and positions provided by INTERTANKO can be found here.