Prestige captain admits he saw rust in the vessel's tanks before oil spill disaster

Apostolos Mangouras says he is "not qualified" to determine the degree of corrosion

The captain of the Prestige, Apostolos Mangouras, breaks down in court.
The captain of the Prestige, Apostolos Mangouras, breaks down in court.- (EFE)

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 that stated 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.

Mangouras said he did not take part in any of the inspections of the vessel and 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 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. 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.

Spain's authorities decided to have the vessel towed away from the coast. Six days later, the Prestige broke in two and sank, spilling thousands of tons of fuel.

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