Greenpeace activists sample spilled crude oil from the sunken Prestige tanker.
Oil has already washed up along the coast and birds and other
wildlifehave been contaminated. Once released, oil is very
difficult tocontain, and most will remain in the marine
The vessel, the Prestige, was reported to have been about 250
kilometres (150 miles) from the Spanish coast when it broke up.
Most of the crew were evacuated after the tanker began taking on
water during bad weather last week.
What happens now?
There are various and varying predictions as to what will happen
to the oil left on board.
If the remaining tanks hit the bottom intact, it could be some
timebefore they rupture and leak oil. Even then, at low
temperatures theheavy fuel oil will be quite viscous and may be
unlikely to reach thesurface as a slick. Nevertheless, out of sight
must not mean out ofmind. There may well be impacts from releases
of the oil beneath thesea over time.
The impacts on coastal ecology and communities are
alreadysubstantial. The costs of the clean up will be enormous. In
seekingliability and responsibility, we have to make sure it is not
just theCaptain who is in the dock, but those responsible for the
registration,running and chartering of this vessel and ultimately
the oil industryfor once again being at the root of the
The danger of oil is not limited to spills
This latest accident reminds us of the inherent dangers of
fossilfuels. Oil may be an enviornmental catastrophe when it
spills, but it'sno less a catastrophe when it arrives safely. In
addition to thepollution caused by oil's extraction, transport and
use, fossil fuelsare causing climate change, the worst
environmental problem we facetoday.
We must phase out of the use of oil and move towards clean
renewableenergy that can meet our needs without threatening our
environment, nowand into the future.
Learn more about moving toward a clean energy future.
The shipping industry can take action to avoid spills
Greenpeace, the International Transport Workers Federation, and
WWFhave written a joint appeal to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
toconvene a special task force. The task: close the loopholes in
maritimelaw that allow sub-standard ships and shipping practices to
continue onthe high seas.
Chief among the targets for international action must be the
"flagsof convenience" -- countries which license ships to operate
withoutregard for the safety of their crews or the protection of
There are several international bodies which set health and
safetystandards for the shipping industry internationally. But as
long asthose regulations are only enforced at the national level,
"Flag ofConvenience" states will continue to offer a way around
read the text of the joint letter here,and add your voice to
demands that the International MaritimeOrganisation improve the
transparency and accountability of theshipping industry at our
take action against oil page.