Apostolos Mangouras, the captain of the Prestige oil tanker, which sank a decade ago off the coast of Galicia in what was the biggest environmental disaster ever in Spain, told a court on Tuesday that he had noticed some “rust” in the storage tanks of the ship but “no breakage” when he assumed command of the vessel in September 2002.
In the renewal of the court case on the catastrophe, when asked by the prosecutor Álvaro García Ortiz why he had signed a report on October 30, 2002 which stated that there were no defects in the tanks, the 77-year-old Mangouras, who spent 83 days in jail after the disaster, said he was not “qualified” to determine the degree of corrosion.
He said he did not take part in any of the inspections of the vessel. “They didn’t have anything to do with me,” he said. Mangouras also said he was unaware that the tanker had been barred from entering more than a dozen ports in the United States, Cuba, Lebanon, Finland and Denmark. “During my time on the vessel we never visited those countries,” the Greek official said.
Mangouras confirmed he had not read the log of the previous captain, which the prosecutor said had warned about the existence of defects in the ship.
Mangouras’ cross-examination had to be interrupted for 10 minutes when he broke down as he recalled describing to his family how the accident had occurred. On resuming his testimony, he denied that he had failed to collaborate with the Spanish authorities after sending out an emergency message saying the vessel was shipping water. “They treated me like a criminal,” he said.
The emergency call was sent on November 13, 2002 when the Prestige, with 27 crew on board and carrying 77,000 of fuel oil, was 28 miles off the coast of Fisterra in Galicia. The Spanish authorities took the decision to have the vessel towed away from the coast, barring it from entering any port. Six days later, the Prestige broke in two and sank, spilling thousands of tons of fuel onto the coasts of Galicia and Cantabria as well as parts of France.