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Monday, December 11, 2017

INTERTANKO WELCOMES RELEASE OF MASTER OF NISSOS AMORGOS BY VENEZUELA

The International Association of tanker owners (INTERTANKO) has welcomed the release of Captain Konstantinos Spyropoulos, master of the Greek-flag tanker Nissos Amorgos, by the Venezuelan authorities on Friday, 15 August after five and one-half months in detention.

Captain Spyropoulos, who was reunited with his family in Greece on 17 August, has been granted temporary freedom, on compassionate grounds, for a period of 30 days while the Venezuelan courts have their summer recess. He must return to the country for trial when the courts reconvene in September.

Captain Spyropoulos was detained in Venezuela following the grounding of the 89,000 dwt Nissos Amorgos in the Maracaibo Channel on the night of 28 February 1997. A total of 7,000 tonnes of oil spilled from the ship and polluted the Venezuelan coastline. Claims for compensation for pollution damage totalling over $300 million were lodged against the owners of the tanker and Nissos Amorgos was also held by the Venezuelan authorities as security. Over the past three months INTERTANKO has campaigned on behalf of independent tanker owners world-wide, pointing out the detention of Nissos Amorgos and her master was illegal because Venezuela is a signatory to the international 1969 Civil Liability and 1971 Fund Conventions governing rapid compensation for oil pollution damage. The first breakthrough came on 21 July when the tanker was allowed to depart Venezuela.

"In the week prior to the release of Captain Spyropoulos the Venezuelan newspapers and the judge of Cabimas Court, who had ordered the continued detention of the master, had received a large number of letters," stated Dagfinn Lunde, Managing Director of INTERTANK. "These letters, many of which came from INTERTANKO member companies, requested his immediate release on humanitarian grounds. I am convinced that the letters were instrumental in securing freedom for Captain Spyropoulos and I would like to thank the many companies which spoke out on his behalf. The Greek Consul in Maracaibo has also done an excellent job in facilitating negotiations and exerting diplomatic pressure throughout this harrowing period for the Greek captain.

"Despite this good news, the principal concern for INTERTANKO about the case remains unresolved. The Venezuelan authorities have still not pressed formal charges against the captain," asserted Dagfinn Lunde. "According to the international treaties to which Venezuela is a signatory, there is no legal basis for bringing Captain Spyropoulos to trial. The Venezuelan authorities should instead devote attention to the questionable state of their major waterways handling tanker traffic, in particular the Maracaibo Channel, to ensure that incidents such as the Nissos Amorgos grounding do not happen again."