At the trial of those held responsible for the sinking of the Prestige, which caused one of Europe's worst oil spills when the tanker went down off north-west Galicia in November 2002, veteran ship's captain Apostolos Mangouras has admitted that he detected "corrosion" in the ballast tanks when he took command of the vessel in September 2002 - two months before the accident - but denied there was any sign of a "split".
In answer to the prosecutor's questioning about inspections he carried out on the tanker, 77-year-old Mangouras, has alleged that due to his advanced age, he "no longer has capacity" to determine the degree of corrosion he perceived. His lawyer has stated that in view of his advanced age, he will only answer questions in court from the Spanish State Prosecutor and the Public Defender.
Mangouras (pictured, centre) also claimed that he was not responsible the ship's inspections. "They had nothing to do with me", he said. When asked why the inspector didn't check the tanks, he said "he had to see them", but did not ask him to empty them in order to carry out the inspection.
He also denied knowing that the tanker was banned from a dozen ports, including those in the United States, Cuba, Lebanon, Finland and Denmark. "Whilst I was captain, we never went to those countries", he pointed out.
The Prestige's captain, the chief engineer and the former head of Spain's merchant marine department are all being held repsonsible for the Prestige disaster, which resulted in 60,000 tonnes of crude oil escaping into the Atlantic off Cape Finisterre. Prosecutors are demanding a 12-year prison sentence for Mangouras, now 77.
The Prestige split in half and sank six days after it ran into trouble during a heavy storm. Authorities in Spain, France and Portugal refused to allow the vessel into port and it was being dragged away into the Atlantic when it broke up.
Fuel washed up on beaches across northern Spain and parts of France, ruining local fishing grounds. The damage caused by the spill is estimated at €3.9bn, according to court documents. The Spanish state is asking for more than €2bn in compensation via the vessel's insurers. French authorities are also claiming damages.
The trial, in the north-western port city of La Coruña, is due to last at least a year, with 130 witnesses called to a special courthouse. Key issues will include the seaworthiness of the vessel and the refusal of authorities to allow it to sail into a safe harbour.Veteran sea captain Mangouras is backed by seafarers, who claim that he not only saved his crew but stayed with his ship and behaved in a model fashion.