The next November 19 are met 16 years of the catastrophe of Prestige, which sank with 77,000 tons of fuel off the Galician coast, causing enormous environmental damage. This month also marks 40 years of the existence of the Fidac, Damages Compensation Funds due to Hydrocarbon Pollution. in which 115 States are integrated. It's time to take an exam.
On the other side of the phone José Maura Barandian, its CEO and one of the Spaniards who has climbed the highest in an international organization, lists from London the big figures of the mechanism: since the Torrey Canyon ran aground near the Isles of Sorling in 1967 the coasts of the United Kingdom and France, has covered "150 claims with 674 million pounds". At present, they would be 774 million euros, a river of funds that, however, has fallen short on many occasions. The Prestige was one of them.
The Provincial Court of A Coruña set at 1,573 million the compensation for the "patrimonial, environmental and moral damage" caused by the chapapote. The prosecution asked for more than 4,000 million for the contamination of more than 2,000 kilometers of coastline. But what was really paid was much less. The Fidac were the first funds to arrive. They contributed 121 million, of which 26, according to their annual report, were for "fees" and other expenses. There remain to pay another 28 million from the Fidac and, in parallel, those affected continue fighting against the insurer of the old oil tanker of Liberian ship owner, flag of Bahamas and Greek captain: the London P & I Club, which has a policy of 900 million that resists use.
"If another Prestige happens again, Spain would have saved all the headaches, "summarizes Maura. In 2005, after this incident and the one that split in two the Erika in 1999, the Fidac enabled a complementary fund with an additional indemnification of 1,047 million dollars. But new mattress has small print: it will be used "only" for the damages caused after the entry into force of the protocol that created it, in 2003, one year after the Prestige. This powerful fund has not yet been released.
The agency has paid 774 million for the damage caused by 150 boats
"The Prestige it's a very complicated case. The damages far exceeded the available funds. We had a problem, there was little money to pay ", recognizes Maura, since the cap marked for that sinister was set at 170 million. Now the 28 million remaining to be delivered will be shared between Spain, France and to a lesser extent Portugal.
Maura defends the international instrument as "an umbrella for when it rains". An umbrella that is paid, fundamentally, by oil companies. "99.9% of those forced to pay do so. It is an example of solidarity and magnificent contribution, the States support us because it works ".
The Fidac are financed with the contributions of companies that receive certain types of hydrocarbons by sea. These contributions are calculated based on the quantity of substances landed during a year. But the system can be improved. For starters, the United States has not adhered and China does so only in application for Hong Kong. The funds are in pounds, which has caused that lately they are subjected to strong tensions of the currency derived from the Brexit. And, from what has been seen, its coverage has been increasing, but always in the wake of a maritime accident, when the international community has been alarmed by a disaster of large proportions.
Every year they are transported around the world 1,500 million tons of hydrocarbons. India is the largest contributor to Fidac as the largest recipient of crude oil in the countries that comprise it, with some 200,000 tons per year, followed by Japan, Korea, Holland, Italy, Singapore and in seventh place, Spain. China is reluctant to enter: "I have met with Chinese authorities. That country receives some 400 million tons each year. Be part of [del fondo] it would cost a lot of money, solidarity is expensive. But they follow us closely and apply the same rules when they have to pay for the damage of a ship. " It happened to them this year, when in February the Sanchi, of Panamanian flag, exploded in front of Shanghai after hitting a Chinese freighter when it was transporting from Iran to South Korea 136,000 tons of an ultralight type of fuel.
The US has its own vehicle and China only partially involves itself in this institution
The United States is another possible donor that has not joined the club despite living disasters as brutal as the Exxon Valdez, for which the oil company Exxon Mobil was ordered to pay 4.5 billion dollars in damages and more than 2.250 billion in interests for the oil slick that poisoned the coast of Alaska in 1989. Maura does not see these absences as a big problem. "The fundamental thing is that you have to have a maximum level of coverage."
Spain is especially vulnerable in this global fuel transport game board. It receives between 60 and 65 million tons per year, for which Repsol mainly pays, and the north and northwest coast is witness to the passage of thousands of ships with dangerous goods. "Statistics tell us that, sooner or later, accidents occur."
But new winds change the use of energy. What will happen when the electric car is extended and there is no need to transport fuel? The director answers with another question: "When will that day be? For now we still need oil. If you ask me if oil transportation is safe I will say yes, it has improved, and yes, there are maritime highways. Large and good ships have double hulls. But there are quite a few old ships that cause damage. " Large spills are less common, but almost every year accidents occur, such as the one that in 2017 contaminated the Saronic Gulf after the collapse of Ayía Zoni II in front of Athens. "It sank in the middle of Piraeus. The ship was anchored, most of the crew had gone to dinner, and it happened. It came to us and we had to compensate it. "
It happened on the west coast of the Republic of Korea. On December 7, 2007, Hebei Spirit spilled some 10,900 tons of crude oil into the sea and heavily contaminated the Taean Peninsula and nearby islands. "This accident was the most important spill in the history of the Fidac, with more than 127,000 claims filed," the organism states. One of the most important variables when it comes to defining the magnitude of the disaster is in the number of kilometers of coast affected, and in this case the spot extended by 345 kilometers. 252 million euros were released to cover the cost.