Disaster At Sea & A Spanish Feminist
Disaster at sea and a Spanish feminist. What’s the connection?
First the disaster.
In November 2002 a tanker ‘Prestige’ carrying 77,000 tons of heavy fuel oil burst one of its tanks during a storm in the Bay of Biscay.
The captain, fearing his vessel was sinking, called for help from the Spanish rescue services.
The skipper hoped they could be towed to a safe harbour. That didn’t happen, the government stepped in and refused permission for the stricken ship to be brought any where near the Galician coastline. The governments of France and Portugal followed suit, the latter even sending a warship to intercept and prevent ‘Prestige’ from approaching the coast. As authorities argued the vessel and weather continued to deteriorate. Eventually the crew had to be lifted off.
6 days later the inevitable happened. Some 250 miles off the Spanish coast ‘Prestige’ broke in half and sank. 20 million gallons of oil was released into the sea. It was to be Europe’s worst environmental disaster, on a par if not worse than that of the Exxon Valdez. Offshore fishing was banned for six months, countless seabirds, fish and marine creatures died. The cleanup cost billions.
Four years later oil was still leaking from the wreck, now lying in 4000m of water. They don’t know how much is yet to come.
The blame game started right away. The captain was arrested and charged with non-cooperation and harming the environment. Civil and criminal actions were started. In 2013 a court in Galicia acquitted the captain and chief engineer of environmental crimes. Only last year Spain’s state prosecutor appealed the decision. Captain Apostlos Mangouras, now 80, could yet find himself back in a court room.
Ultimately though there was one thing that couldn’t be denied. The law of the sea had been ignored. A ship was in trouble, they called for help, it was refused. Everyone knew it. This couldn’t be allowed to happen again.
In 2007 the Spanish Maritime Safety Authority SASEMAR took delivery of two oil recovery and salvage vessels. One of them ‘Clara Campoamor’ is based here in Cartagena, right next to the marina.
Here’s the connection.
Clara Campoamor was a politician and feminist who got equal rights for women written into the Spanish constitution in the 1930’s.
Today we had the chance to go aboard the vessel named in her honour. As I’m sure her namesake was, she’s an impressive lady.
‘Clara Compoamor’ and her sister ship ‘Don Inda’ (based in Galicia) are tugs. Their primary role is the emergency towing of tankers, of any size, under adverse conditions. The hook Gail is standing next to in the photo below can take a pull of 220 tons. That’s serious stuff. ‘Clara Compoamor and ‘Don Inda’ are the most powerful coastguard vessels anywhere in Europe.
The ship is equipped to control pollution. She has her own tanks to hold recovered oil. She can ‘dilute’ spillages making them suitable for discharge back into the sea. She can transfer oil to another vessel or ashore.
Clara also has a deep diving bell and decompression chamber that allows salvage divers to work down to extreme depths.
Fire fighting, emergency coordination, salvage and rescue can all be dealt with by this amazing vessel.
As a Brit it was satisfying to see the Rolls Royce logo all over the ship. Rolls Royce marine engineering developed the ship design and supplied all the main equipment and control systems.
A few stats:
- Gross Tonnage: 3646
- Length: 80.6m
- Beam: 18m
- Draught 6.1m
- Four Bergen/Rolls Royce engines each producing 21,500 Hp
- Max speed: 17.6 knots
- 2 x High Lift Rudders
- Twin stern thrusters
- Independently powered 1000hp bow thruster
As always pictures tell a better story.
A handy little tender to have aboard
Always useful to have a few shackles ready
The aft-facing tow control station
A touch of Star Trek here
More tow controls
There’s no ships wheel, she’s steered with these
View over the sharp end. Actually it’s blunt.
The bows are reinforced and flattened so they can push as well as pull.
Had to be done. Gail at the helm.
It was a privilege to be onboard ‘Clara Campoamor’. It’s reassuring to know that she’s ready and able to prevent another disaster like the sinking of the ‘Prestige’.
Just a few weeks ago she was called to assist the ‘Orakai’, an ethanol tanker that lost power 15nm south of here. More Here.
Our thanks and respects to all at Salvamento Maritimo.