Fourteen years after the Prestige disaster the Spanish Supreme court has convicted Captain Mangouras to two years in prison for “recklessness resulting in catastrophic environmental damage”. It thereby overturned a previous judgement by the provincial Court of La Coruña which had cleared him of any responsibility.
Captain Mangouras, now 81 years old, is outrageously branded a ‘reckless’ criminal. Yet his actions were described as ‘exemplary’ by the vessel’s flag state. Confronted with a refusal by the Spanish authorities to give the damaged ship refuge, Captain Mangouras bravely did all he possibly could to protect crew, ship and cargo and to protect the environment. He remained on board with the Chief Engineer after the rest of the crew had been evacuated, in order to try and save the ship. Finally, against his judgement, he was obliged by the Spanish authorities to take a series of actions that resulted in the damaged tanker being forced to remain out at sea in appalling conditions, where she eventually broke up.
The European Maritime Social Partners, the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) together with the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) visited the Captain of the sunken Prestige oil tanker, Apostolos Mangouras in Athens on the eve of the Day of the Seafarer (25 June 2016) to express their support following his conviction and refuse to accept that seafarers should be subject to such treatment.
“Captain Mangouras has paid an unacceptably heavy price for his professionalism, bravery and devotion to duty as a ship’s Master. It is a price he should never have had to pay. His unjust treatment, which began when his vessel, the mv Prestige encountered difficulties in severe weather, is still continuing nearly fourteen years since the events”, said ECSA’s Social Dialogue Committee’s chairman Tim Springett from UK Chamber of shipping. “We insist on ensuring fair treatment of seafarers following a maritime accident and stand firmly against the criminalisation of seafarers”, he concluded.
ETF political secretary Philippe Alfonso said the visit, on the eve of the Day of the Seafarer, was fundamental to pay tribute to people working in difficult conditions on board ships, and to condemn the trend of seafarers being used too often as easy scapegoats upon whom to shift all responsibility for accidents at sea.
Dave Heindel, chair of the ITF seafarers’ section, said: “We wholeheartedly commend this important joint demand by workers’ representatives and shipowners for seafarers’ rights to fair treatment to be respected and upheld. Seafarers are increasingly blamed for accidents at sea. This has a devastating impact on their lives, careers and families. And it can detract from a proper investigation of the circumstances behind an accident”.
Captain Mangouras’ situation demonstrates that there is a strong case for the implementation and observance of the joint ILO/IMO Guidelines for Fair Treatment of Seafarers following a Maritime Accident. This would finally remove what has become a significant obstacle to the recruitment of the future generations of seafarers.
ETA also joins the voices of Social Partners in insisting there should be fair treatment of seafarers following a maritime accident.