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Blame game in Greece as oil spill spreads in Athens' Saronic gulf
Athens (AFP) Sept 13, 2017

Greece fumbled oil spill response: environment groups
Athens (AFP) Sept 14, 2017 - Greek officials fumbled their response to a minor oil spill that is now threatening beaches near Athens five days after the suspicious sinking of a tanker, environmental groups said Thursday.

"This leak happened near the country's biggest harbour, just miles away from the operation centre of the ministry tasked with addressing such disasters," Dimitris Ibrahim, campaign director at Greenpeace Greece, told news portal

Adding insult to injury, the amount of oil in question was "relatively small," Ibrahim said.

The oil spill on Sunday compromised beaches on the island of Salamis and officials were confident that it could be contained given mild wind conditions.

But by Thursday, parts of the slick had drifted miles away to the Athens coastal resort of Glyfada and was threatening the popular beaches of Voula and Vouliagmeni.

WWF Greece was likewise incredulous that "a country with heavy tankers traffic has proven unable to protect its beaches from an initially small-scale incident."

"Nobody thought the slick would reach us," Glyfada mayor Yiorgos Papanikolaou told Skai TV.

"If someone had warned us even on Tuesday, we would have taken precautions," said Papanikolaou.

"We must act quickly to prevent long-term damage,"

Mayors across the coast have issued beach warnings and fishermen have been advised to avoid the area at present.

Merchant marine minister Panagiotis Kouroublis, who was attending a shipping conference in London -- and is under fire for not interrupting the trip -- is visiting the area on Thursday.

He insists that every available resource has been thrown at the oil slick.

"A giant operation is under way," he told state agency ANA. "Everything will be clean in 20-25 days."

The European Union has contributed an anti-pollution ship.

The 45-year-old vessel Agia Zoni II sank on Sunday near the island of Salamis while under anchor. The cause is still unknown.

The Greek-flagged tanker was carrying around 2,500 tonnes of fuel.

The only people on board at the time, the tanker's captain and chief engineer, were charged with negligence and released pending trial.

The ship's owners said the tanker was fully seaworthy and all its documentation was in order.

An operation is under way to drain the fuel remaining on board.

Greek officials traded accusations Wednesday after an oil spill from a sunken tanker drifted to other parts of the Saronic Gulf in Athens.

The 45-year-old vessel Agia Zoni II sank on Sunday near the island of Salamis while under anchor. The cause is still unknown.

"This is a major environmental disaster," said Salamis mayor Isidora Nannou-Papathanassiou, whose island is suffering the brunt of the damage.

Government officials were holding an emergency meeting at the shipping ministry after the slick washed ashore near Piraeus, the country's biggest port.

By Wednesday afternoon, oil pollution was reported in Agios Kosmas, a residential coastal area several kilometres from where the tanker sank.

"Clearly the danger (of pollution) was not estimated correctly," Nannou-Papathanassiou told state television ERT. "The currents moved the oil spill."

The Greek-flagged tanker was carrying around 2,500 tonnes of fuel, some of which quickly covered beaches and coves on the southeastern side of Salami, opposite Athens and Piraeus.

A 60-person crew worked on the Piraeus coast to clean up the spill. An anti-pollution tanker was due to be deployed later Wednesday, state news agency ANA said.

- 'Lost valuable time' -

Merchant Marine Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis insisted on Tuesday that 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," Kouroublis, who is attending a conference in London, told Real FM radio.

The main opposition party New Democracy said the authorities had "lost valuable time" in containing the spill.

Panagiotis Hatziperos, deputy regional governor of the Saronic island group which includes Salamis, agreed.

"The (seriousness of the) incident was not correctly identified at first," Hatziperos told public broadcaster ERT, blaming the merchant marine ministry and the coastguard for the inadequate response.

"I have asked the owners of the ship to put six times more resources in the area," he said.

The Salamis mayor said that immediately after the incident, "the main effort was concentrated on sealing the ship's hold and discovering people possibly trapped inside".

- 'Avoid the area' -

The only people on board at the time, the tanker's captain and chief engineer, were charged with negligence and released pending trial.

The ship's owners said the tanker was fully seaworthy and all its documentation was in order.

Greek authorities are still unable to say how much fuel remains on board. Efforts to drain the tanker are to begin later on Wednesday.

The coastguard said barriers had been erected to contain the spill and tanker trucks were being used to collect the oil.

Local officials said fishermen had been told to avoid the area. Coastal businesses in the area have also shut down, the Salamis mayor said.

She added that her office planned to submit lawsuits on behalf of coastal restaurants losing business due to the spill.

Salamis lies just off the Eleusis shipyards and oil refineries, one of the most polluted areas in Greece. The sewage treatment plant of Psyttalia is also near where the tanker sank.

IEA: Oil markets managed, but beware of the weather
Washington (UPI) Sep 13, 2017
Even though the sector was able to cope, the International Energy Agency said severe weather in the United States should serve as a warning for oil markets. Hurricane Harvey hit the southern coast of Texas in late August and forced the closure of several refineries and some production centers in the region. Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida earlier this week and, as the state has ... read more

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