Oil spill threatens career of Greek shipping minister

Temperatures in Athens over the weekend are set to top 34 degrees. However, locals will not be able to cool off at their favourite beaches as Greek authorities have been unable to contain an oil spill from Sunday – a failure that could threaten the career of Panagiotis Kouroumnlis, the merchant marine minister.

The 45-year-old Agia Zoni II sank at dawn on Sunday in the Saronic Gulf to the south of the Greek capital while carrying 2,200 tons of fuel oil and 370 metric tons of marine gas oil. Although a boom was eventually deployed and divers managed to patch up the cargo hold, the response was not quick enough to staunch thousands of litres of fuel washing up on the nearby island of Salamis as well as along the so-called Athens Riviera.

The accident has provoked widespread anger among locals and opposition politicians at the paucity of oil spill clean-up infrastructure on hand in Greece.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that as a country with significant marine activity, Greece should be better prepared to deal with incidents like the sinking of the Agia Zoni II.

WWF’s Greek branch said in statement: “Greece appears unprepared to respond in a timely manner to protect its marine wealth and coasts, even in an incident that was initially of a relatively restricted scope.”

Opposition politicians have called for the head of Kouroumnlis in the wake of the ecological disaster, with the shipping minister saying he is willing to step down if asked to by the prime minster.

Witnesses have reported floating tar and dead fish on popular beaches that remain deserted in the run up to the warm weekend.




Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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