Spain Ousts Stricken Tanker From Its Waters

Tuesday, January 16, 2001
Spain's refusal to allow the stricken tanker Castor into sheltered waters is hampering the trans-shipment of gasoline from its damaged holds, its owner Athenian Sea Carriers said on Tuesday.

"All we're asking for is to come four to five kilometers (2/3 miles) off the coast where it is more sheltered for a safer trans-shipment," a company official said.

Since the Castor, carrying 29,500 tons of gasoline, developed a 20-m crack in its deck 16 days ago it has approached Spain, Gibraltar and Morocco in search of calm waters in which to remove the cargo.

Each time it has been refused amid fears that sparks could set off a massive explosion. The 26-man crew left the tanker on January 5 on a rescue vessel chartered by the company.

A spokesman for the Spanish maritime authority said that the ship was not allowed within 12 miles of the Spanish coastline.

Last week, the head of Spain's merchant shipping authority, reportedly said that Spain had met its responsibilities.

"Our primary responsibility was to save the lives of the crew, and we did that," the shipping authority head said. "Our job now is to protect Spanish civilians living on the coast, and we are going to do that."

The Athenian Sea Carriers official said, "An assessment by the American Bureau of Shipping showed that if there were a blast, its radius would be no more than 100 m across, so how can Spain's civilian population be at risk?"

The company said the vessel was now sitting 55 miles off the coast of Spain and that a 2.5 m swell was preventing vital safety equipment being brought onboard.

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