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Prestige final settlement: €1.5bn compensation set by Supreme Court
A COMPENSATION bill for the worst environmental disaster in Spain's living history has been set at a record €1.5 billion after a Supreme Court hearing this week.
It has taken 16 years since the Prestige catastrophe for the full amount to be confirmed, for which the captain – Apostolos Ioannis Mangouras – and the owner, Mare Shipping Inc, are jointly and severally liable.
The huge settlement will be made by the London Steamship Owners' Mutual Insurance Association and by Mangouras' own public liability insurer, both of whom would be able to reclaim some of the money from the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Funds.
Officially the world's third-most expensive environmental disaster after the Columbia and Chernobyl, the Prestige oil tanker capsized in a storm on November 13, 2002 some 250 kilometres out to sea off Galicia's Costa de la Muerte – which, ironically, translates as 'Death Coast' – causing its 77,000-tonne fuel cargo to empty into the water.
A slick large enough to reach from Barcelona to the Scottish border engulfed the Bay of Biscay, damaging 2,000 kilometres of coast in three countries – Spain, France and Portugal – extended from the north of the latter to the shores of the Département of Landes in Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
Tens of thousands of birds perished and many more rescued, all coated in black oil, and the coastal clean-up operation took months, costing well over €10bn.
France incurred recovery costs of around €60m and the regional government of Galicia alone had to spend over €2m on repairing the disaster and refloating the doomed ship.
In total, the costs incurred far exceeded those of the Challenger explosion and, other than the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe and the disintegration of the Columbia, no other crisis of its type has involved greater financial loss.
The compensation will be split between the three affected countries – Spain being the one which suffered the worst – as well as the Galicia regional government and another 269 injured parties entitled to damages, including individuals, companies, societies and local councils.
This verdict comes in response to an appeal by the IOPC Funds, the State prosecution and the State law service against a ruling by the Provincial Court of A Coruña in 2017 which found the owner and captain only liable under civil, not criminal law.
Also, the Supreme Court verdict upheld a request for the IVA levied on the repair and cleaning-up costs to be included in the settlement, which had not been factored into the calculations made by the judge in A Coruña but which, for Spain alone, comes to €43.6m.
Further, the Supreme Court has agreed with the State law service that the amount of previous financial aid received from the EU – over €275m – cannot be deducted from the final compensation settlement.
This ultimate figure of €1.5bn includes interest for delay.
Due to terms of the Law of Criminal Judgment and in accordance with EU directives, the Supreme Court judge will apply directly to the insurance company in London to obtain the funds rather than this resting in the hands of the policyholders themselves.
London Steamship Owners' Mutual had already deposited €22.7m with the Spanish State as a guarantee ahead of the final calculations.
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