Skip to main content

Maritime Law-M/T PRESTIGE Captain Innocent of Environmental Crime

As reported late last week in various news sources including the Maritime Executive, a Spanish court found the crew of the M/T PRESTIGE and the Spanish Merchant Navy not guilty of criminal responsibility of the sinking of the oil tanker on November 13, 2002. It was Spain's worst ever environmental disaster. The PRESTIGE sank off Spain’s northwestern coast and polluted thousands of miles of coastline and beaches in Spain, France and Portugal - prompting Spain to close its fishing grounds for about six months. The tanker was transporting about 77,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil on board.

Picture taken from www.crcco.com 


Initially, the ship’s master Apostolos Mangouras requested a place of refuge for the tanker, which had a crack in its hull. But Spanish, French and Portuguese authorities denied the ship sanctuary. The Spanish authorities instructed the captain to take his ship further out to sea. After a storm damaged one of its fuel tanks, the ship drifted for days. The integrity of the ship's single-hull quickly deteriorated, and a severe storm eventually broke the starboard hull off the ship and subsequently spilled her entire cargo off Spain’s coast. Mangouras was taken into custody for "not cooperating" with salvage crews and causing environmental damage.

After an 11-year judicial investigation, the Galician region's high court said in a verdict and sentence that the disaster was partly due to the 26-year-old tanker's poor state of repair. Three judges of the Galician Spanish High Court concluded it was impossible to establish criminal responsibility and Captain Mangouras, Chief Engineer Nikolaos Argyropoulos and the former head of Spain's Merchant Navy, Jose Luis Lopez, were found not guilty of crimes against the environment. Lopez was the only government official charged in the case. Mangouras, 78, was found guilty of a lesser charge of disobedience and given a nine month suspended sentence.

The judges noted the leak was caused by deficient maintenance which the court found the crew did not know about. The captain was accused of disobeying government authorities who wanted the 26-year-old tanker as far from the coast as possible. The court found that decision to be a correct one. 

Spain also attempted to sue the classification society ABS for the condition of the ship, but failed to win that attempt. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that Spain did not provide sufficient evidence to take the case back to trial and clearing ABS of all charges. That court stated: "We conclude that we need not resolve the question whether a classification society may be held liable in tort to a third party such as Spain for reckless conduct in connection with the classification of vessels. Rather, we assume arguendo for purposes of this appeal that Defendants did owe the claimed duty to Spain. In our view, Spain has nonetheless failed to adduce sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Defendants recklessly breached that duty such that their actions constituted a proximate cause of the wreck of the Prestige."
 
If you are interested in contacting me, you may do so by writing to me at mov@chaloslaw.com.

 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Maritime Law--U.S. Crewmember Required to Arbitrate Claims Applying Norwegian Law

In Alberts v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., No. 15-14775 (11th Cir. Aug. 23, 2016), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that a U.S. citizen, working aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship is required to arbitrate his claims against Royal Caribbean.
Plaintiff, a United States citizen, worked as the lead trumpeter on a passenger Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The ship is a Bahamian flagged vessel with a home port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Royal Caribbean, the operator of the vessel, is a Liberian corporation with its principal place of business in Florida. After plaintiff became ill while working for Royal Caribbean, he filed suit alleging unseaworthiness, negligence, negligence under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure, and seaman’s wages and penalties. Royal Caribbean moved to compel arbitration, and the district court granted the motion. This appeal presented an issue of first impression: Whether a seaman’s work in international waters on a cruise ship that calls o…

Maritime Law--Tour Boat Captain Implicated in Tragedy Off Nicaragua

As reported in the Daily Business Review on January 25, 2016, Nicaragua's police, army and navy will investigate the captain of a tourist boat and his assistant for the deaths of 13 Costa Rican passengers killed on January 23rd when the vessel capsized in bad weather. The Reina del Caribe, Spanish for "Caribbean Queen," was carrying 33 people when it went down Saturday amid rain and strong winds as it ferried between the Corn Islands, a popular tourist destination, off Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. The Daily Business Review article can be accessed here=> Daily Business Review article.

The government clarified on the 24th that the boat was carrying 25 Costa Ricans, two Americans, two British citizens, a Brazilian and three Nicaraguans. Previous reports had said there were 32 people on board, including four Americans. All the dead were Costa Ricans.

Nicaragua's naval commander for the southern Caribbean region said the boat's captain was detained because the …

Maritime Law--Lawsuits Filed Over RCCL's "Storm Cruise"

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd ("RCCL") faces lawsuits by passengers accusing the company of negligently endangering their lives by letting Anthem of the Seas sail into a February 7, 2016 storm.  One class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Miami specifically states that RCCL should be required to pay punitive damages to passengers on its ship for "knowingly sailing directly into" a strong winter storm with 120-mph winds. It is also alleged that people aboard the ship were "subjected to hours of sheer terror as the gigantic cruise ship was battered by hurricane-force winds and more than 30-foot waves."

The vessel reportedly encountered 100 mph winds and 30-foot waves, and RCCL said the storm was more severe than expected. RCCL later turned the ship around, and it returned to New Jersey on February 10. Anthem of the Seas’ port azipod reportedly burnt through “all four clutches” during the storm. RCCL reported four minor injuries among more than 6,000 p…