A massive oil spill off the coast of Salamina from a sunken tanker has expanded along the Saronic Gulf to Piraeus drifting as far as Glyfada with officials and authorities exchanging accusations.
Swimmers and fishermen have been asked to avoid the area, while Salamina coastal businesses have shut down after the Greek coastguard erected barriers to contain the spill and tanker trucks had begun to drain the tanker.
The spill resulted after the anchored Greek-flagged Agia Zoni II carrying some 2,200 tons of crude oil sank under unknown circumstances on Sunday, with Merchant Marine Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis insisting on Tuesday that the ship’s hull had been secured against further leakage.
“There is no risk of further seepage. The oil leaked as the ship was sinking. All necessary steps have been taken,” he said.
However, by late Wednesday, the spill had drifted all along the residential coastline known as the Athenian Riviera.
The 45-year-old vessel’s captain and chief engineer have been charged with negligence and released pending trial. The ship’s owners, meanwhile, said it was fully seaworthy with all relevant documentation in order.
“This is a major environmental disaster,” said Salamina Mayor Isidora Nannou-Papathanassiou.
“The damage is great. The municipality will take legal action for damages and full liability of the ecological disaster. Companies with experience in such incidents have assured us that they will restore the coast and the sea to the former situation,” Salamina authorities said in a statement.
Mayors from other municipalities along the Piraeus-Sounio coastline said they would also be taking legal action.
“This accident takes us back to past eras,” said George Vernicos, general secretary of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), adding that all those involved in the incident and in the crisis management should be held accountable.
“It is an even greater issue when a relatively small spill next to the country’s largest port causes such a disaster; how would authorities cope with spills and accidents from larger scale oil activities,” Vernicos said.
“It is a sign that our country must honor the Paris Agreement and move away from polluting fossil fuels. Apart from all else, the country is totally un-prepared to deal with the impact of an accident during deepwater drilling.”