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Prestige (ship)

The Prestige was a single-hulled oil tanker,whose sinking in 2002 off the Spanish coast caused a very large oil spill.

On November 13, 2002, one of the ship's tanks burst during a storm off Galicia in northwestern Spain. 5,000 tons of fuel oil were spilled in the incident. The Greek captain of the Prestige, Apostolos Mangouras, was taken into custody, accused of not co-operating with salvage crews and of harming the environment.

On 8.00 AM on November 19, the ship split in two. The oil tanker was reported to be about 250 km from the Spanish coast at that time. An earlier oil slick had already reached the coast.

The Spanish government decided to let the Prestige sink. It claimed the leakage would not have a lasting effect on the environment. After the sinking, however, the wreck continued leaking oil, some 125 tons of oil a day. On December 10, the prime minister of Spain, José María Aznar, acknowledge that his government had made errors of judgement, i.e. poor decisions.

The entire load of oil was 70,000 tonnes, approximately 2 million gallons, and the resulting damage could have been twice that of the Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska in 1989 if the oil had reached the coast. The affected section of the coastline is not only a very important ecological region, supporting coral reefs and many species of sharks and birds, but it also supports the crucial fishing industry.

On January 2, 2003, the slick was 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the coast. The French Prime Minister promised 50 million Euros for the cleanup.

Since the disaster oil tankers similar to the Prestige have been directed away from the French and Spanish coastlines. Thousands of volunteers from Spain and other parts of Europe have flocked to Galicia to help clean the coastline.

The ownership of the Prestige is unclear, making it difficult to determine exactly who is responsible for the oil spill. Investigations have so far discovered insufficient safety measures in the current regulatory system.

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