Representatives of European maritime workers and shipowners have made a solidarity visit to Apostolos Mangouras, captain of the sunk Prestige oil tanker, who aged 81 has been sentenced to two years in prison by the Spanish supreme court.
Captain Mangouras’ sentence – for ‘recklessness resulting in catastrophic environmental damage’ – overturns the previous judgement by the provincial court of La Coruña (Galicia), which had cleared him of any responsibility for the Prestige disaster in 2002.
The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) – the ITF’s European arm – and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) used their visit to Athens on 24 June to condemn ‘in the strongest terms’ the Supreme Court’s judgement and to demonstrate their firm stand against the trend of criminalising seafarers.
ETF political secretary Philippe Alfonso was one of the delegates. He 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.”
Another delegate, ECSA’s sectoral social dialogue spokesperson Tim Springett, commented that Captain Mangouras’ situation demonstrated a strong case for the implementation and observance of the joint ILO/IMO Guidelines on Fair Treatment of Seafarers following a Maritime Accident.
The ETF and ECSA fear that the ruling sends a very negative message about the attractiveness of the profession, and consequently on the future recruitment of young and competent European seafarers, at a time when they and the European Commission seek to promote it.