Report: Greek Officials Took Days to Report Spill to EU

spill
Image courtesy Greenpeace Greece / Twitter

By MarEx 2017-09-22 20:22:32

Greek media report that the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) did not receive a notification about the Agia Zoni II spill until three days after the vessel went down. EMSA dispatched a spill response vessel to the scene within hours of learning of the problem, EU Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides told Kathimerini. Greece's shipping minister, Panagiotis Kouroumplis, had claimed that EMSA's response had been delayed because it could not dispatch a vessel immediately.

In a confrontational exchange in Greece’s parliament on Friday, Adonis Georgiadis, vice president of the New Democracy party, alleged that an EMSA response vessel was in the vicinity at the time of the spill and was never asked to assist. The vessel in question, the Aktea, is a converted tanker with sweep arms and a skimmer, and is normally based in Piraeus. 

Kouroumplis and his ministry have come under criticism from environmental groups, Greece's ruling party Syriza, opposition party New Democracy, and the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PENEN) for allegedly lax oversight of the country's coastwise tanker trade and an allegedly slow response to the spill. On Friday, anti-government activists with the group Rouvikonas defaced the ministry's headquarters in Piraeus to protest the alleged "impunity of the shipping industry" in Greece. 

Cleanup continues

The response operation on the water and on shore continues, with hundreds of beach cleanup employees from a private contractor and twelve anti-pollution vessels deployed to remove the oil. On Friday, the tanker Aegean Breeze 1 was dispatched to the wreck site to pump off the Agia Zoni II's remaining cargo. She replaces the tanker Lassea in the salvage operation; Lassea was detained on charges of fuel smuggling earlier in the week. The Lassea's captain and first engineer face charges after inspectors found significant quantities of an undocumented "petroleum mixture" in her ballast tanks.