GIBRALTAR has been slammed for taking “grave environmental risks” by failing to control oil tankers in its waters.
In the week that the BP oil leak became the worst environmental disaster in US history, the Andalucian Public Prosecutors office singled out the enclave for breaking international maritime rules on the so-called practice of ‘bunkering’.
In its annual report on the region’s environment, it urges tighter “controls” over oil tankers in its waters.
It claims that Gibraltar is allowing tankers that “don’t comply with international maritime law or safety” to enter its waters.
And it adds that the Rock’s lax attitude to bunkering – the refuelling of tankers at sea – is leading to serious environmental dangers.
According to the report, the authorities are breaking EU and international rules in the way these tankers are being allowed to transfer combustible fuels.
“This lack of control is making it difficult to enforce punishments for oil leaks,” insists the report.
“It means the perpetrators of spills are impossible to penalise.”
The rap comes after a couple of serious accidents in the bay over recent years. The first saw tanker New Flame sink after a collision and the second involved Fedra, which left a long slick after it crashed in bad weather.
“It’s a very risky situation and if anything were to go wrong it could lead to a catastrophic spill.”
Last year the European Maritime Safety Agency, an EU body, confirmed that the bay was at risk from “occasional significant accidents.”
The PP party has now raised the report in Madrid, while Greenpeace has long campaigned on the issue.
Last year the pressure group joined a forum demanding that both the Spanish and Gibraltarian authorities took urgent measures to protect the bay.
Various environmental groups insist that the authorities are risking a “catastrophic” leak that could destroy the environment.
A Greenpeace report said the bay was suffering from “chronic pollution” due to hydrocarbons, ‘not only as a result of accidents, but also as a consequence of regular unballast, ship-to-ship bunkering’.
Greenpeace campaigner, Sara de Rio, told the Olive Press: “It’s a very risky situation and if anything were to go wrong it could lead to a catastrophic spill.
“There is key sea life in the waters and the Gibraltar, as well as Spanish authorities should do more to protect it.”
A local environmental source in Gibraltar agreed: “This is an environmental disaster waiting to happen.
“The Gibraltar officials should ignore their responsibilities at their peril. Our organisation has been lobbying Gibraltar to monitor its bunkering business for a number of years now.
“Incredibly, people are talking about actually increasing the amount of bunkering going on because it is highly profitable, but it has to be regulated.”
But she added that Spain should also shoulder a fair amount of the blame.
“To be fair the Andalucian authorities seem to be throwing mud and ignoring their own responsibilities.
“It makes it very churlish to criticise Gibraltar when Spanish industry along the coast is discharging raw sewage into the sea.”