SUNKEN SHIPA 50 km² Oil Slick: The Discharges of the Grande America are Still Uncontrolled

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On March 12, the ship Grande America sank in the Bay of Biscay, in French waters. More than two weeks later, the ship is still sunk more than 4,000 meters deep, releasing tons of highly polluting fuel into the sea and putting the survival of several marine species and birds at risk.

He travelled from Hamburg to Casablanca, but sank in the Bay of Biscay. It is the story of the Italian ship Grande America, which on March 12 was shipwrecked between the French and Spanish coasts because of a fire. After two weeks, the ship, which was carrying two thousand Porsche cars, is still stranded at the bottom of the sea. Meanwhile, the authorities are trying to reverse this emergency situation which, for the moment, has left an oil slick of some 50km² that extends towards the French and Cantabrian coast, according to the European Union satellite Copernicus Sentinel.

The agencies’ information reveals that the more than 2,000 tons of oil transported by the ship to propel itself, in addition to being scattered along several parts of the coast, continue to pour into the seabed at more than 4,000 meters below sea level, where part of the vessel is sunken. of the boat. It is a heavy fuel oil (HFO)  that is much cheaper for its refining process, but highly polluting. Although international regulations limit the use of this dangerous fuel in areas such as the North Sea or the Baltic Sea, the Cantabrian area has no restrictions.

At first, two days after the accident, the Government of Spain activated the Plan Golfo de Vizcaya -system of collaboration between Spain and France in case of disaster in the Atlantic- with which the ship of Salvation Maritime Alonso de Chaves was mobilized , loaded with cash and material to carry out cleaning tasks. However, for the moment, the action scenario is paralyzed by the storm and the strong waves.

Therefore, from Ecologists in Action call for the implementation of Scenario 2 of the Emergency Plan , since “may be affected several autonomous communities and especially vulnerable areas . ” Eneko Aierbe, spokesperson of the organization, shows its concern about the stains, “not so much because they are now, but because of how they can be, because they are not soluble and there are risks of reaching the coast.”

Pep Arcos, expert in maritime environments of SEO / BirdLife , explains to Publicthe impact that the accident may have on the flora and fauna of the area. The main inhabitants at risk – besides the cetaceans that habitually live in this environment – are certain types of marine birds such as the Puffin and the Arao , two divingspecies. “The puffin is a species that spends a lot of time away from the coast and experienced a significant decline, it is considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, ” says the expert.

The location of the spill, for the time being away from the coasts, is perhaps the reason that this case is not having a large media coverage. “Sometimes we think that because a catastrophe of this kind happens offshore, it will not affect anyone, but there are many species that do not live on the coast,” adds Arcos, to express that there are certain hopes, since part of the bird population Marinas of the area is in the period of migration to the colonies of England.

However, the damage caused by this accident can also have a long-term impact. This has to do with the characteristics of the discharges that will impregnate plants and algae that are within the trophic chain of some of the species in the area .

SUNKEN SHIPA 50 km² Oil Slick The Discharges of the Grande America are Still Uncontrolled

Image of the Italian ship Grande America moments before its sinking.

Who is guilty?

The Spanish environmental movements are cautious when making judgments about what the final environmental impact may be. However, the Big America accident “has served to reveal the problem behind this type of transport,” say Greenpeace sources.

From Ecologists in Action, they put the focus on the very system that allows “goods to move around the planet in search of business”. Therefore, they point to the operator of the ship, Grimaldi Lines , which decided that the ship should go to sea despite the fact that “information has been published according to which the ship would have presented several deficiencies in terms of firefighting in the last inspections. “, expresses Aierbe.

“From Greenpeace we are closely following the evolution of the impact of the accident and the spill of ‘Grande America’ that, once again, has highlighted the risk of intense maritime traffic for marine and coastal ecosystems and for citizens,” explains Pilar Marcos ,  marine biologist and head of the Biodiversity campaign of the environmental organization.

In any case, it remains in the memory the case of the merchant ship Don Pedro , which in 2007 sank off the coast of Ibiza, with a court ruling that is summarized in the acquittal of the commands and compensation of just over 500,000 euros . This, they explain from Greenpeace, is what can not be repeated. “Who pollutes must pay”, wait Marcos.

SUNKEN SHIPA 50 km² Oil Slick The Discharges of the Grande America are Still Uncontrolled

Oil spill from America Grande photographed by the satellite Copernicus./Copernicus Sentinel (2019)

In this sense, from Ecologists in Action urge the governments of Spain and France to make responsible to the company involved, to run the expenses of cleaning operations that are fighting for several weeks so that the remains do not reach the coast.


Source: Publico