Source Pravda.Ru

Last Prestige?

Russia mustn’t be ashamed of its raw stuff and old tankers?
Yesterday Russia President Vladimir Putin told Russians not to be ashamed of the fact that Russia is considered a raw stuff state in the world. Indeed, it’s not a shame at all that nature gifted Russia with such great natural resources. More than that, the whole of the world currently needs Russia’s resources. However, our technological backwardness may result rather unfavorably for the country: it may turn out that being awfully apprehensive about Russian technique, other countries will lose interest in carbohydrates, even despite the fact that the stuff is in a demand there. What is the way out in this situation?

Europe is extremely shocked at the ecological disaster which recently occurred at the Spanish shore. As it turns out, politicians considerably understated its scale, and ecologists unveiled the actual situation about the tragedy. It became known today that the European Union will invest up to 300 thousand euro in investigation of consequences of the ecological disaster in Spain. The disaster occurred after the wreck of Greece’s tanker Prestige of Russian production. RIA Novosti reports about it with reference to EU Environment Commissioner Margo Wallstrцm. She already made a helicopter tour about the coast of Galicia in order to see the damage caused by the “black tide” with her own eyes. And she was shocked to see the actual state of things. Margo Wallstrцm appealed to the Spanish government for a permission for a group of foreign experts to arrive in the country to estimate the damage of the ecological disaster.

A small French submarine Nautile is currently examining the scale of the ecological disaster and its consequences. According to French investigators, four of the breaches in the fore body of the sunken Prestige spill much more heavy oil products than was reported earlier.

According to the estimates of France’s Maritime Contamination Center, not less than 300 kilograms of oil leak to the sea every day. Spain's First Vice Premier Mariano Rajoy said at a session of the Crisis Coordination Center that two large spots had formed on the sea surface above the Prestige. It is not ruled out that there is oil under the sea surface as well. And its amount is unfortunately uncertain.

Until now, the Spanish authorities said on the basis of expert reports that amount of oil remaining in the Prestige (from 40 to 60 tons) would stiffen from cold and remain in the tanks. However, director of the French Maritime Contamination Center Michele Gerain, who is a highly qualified expert on the problem, says that it is highly likely that whole amount of oil will leak from the tanker to the sea surface as it happened before.

Meanwhile, the two spots on the sea surface already contaminated not only 900 kilometers of the Galicia province shore, but also the shores of the neighboring regions of Asturia, Cantabria and the Basque Country. It is not ruled out that oil may reach France’s shores in five days. Oil from the sunken Prestige was found near the Portugal shores as well. While weather conditions are favorable, collection of spilt oil and cleansing of the shores go at full speed. Mariano Rajoy reports that about 11 tons of oil was collected in the sea and 1.6 tons on the shores.

Over 3.000 volunteers from different parts of Spain came to Galicia for this weekend to help fighting with the oil spill. The people came to the accident site for a period of a short vacation dedicated to the Day of Spanish Constitution. More and more volunteers are still coming. It is expected, the number of people will exceed 10 thousand. Authorities have already warned that they wouldn’t be able to provide necessary amount of shovels and pails, working clothes and respirators for all of them. The authorities say that those who have no special clothes, respirators and necessary instruments mustn’t participate in the clearing works.

Galicia President Don Manuel Fraga Iribarne already made his public excuses to the population for the tragic accident. He admitted that he underestimated the scale of the tragedy and apologized for this mistake. However, the apologies came too late, which certainly didn’t reduce the tension in the province. Ten thousand people organized protest actions in the capital of Galicia against “insufficient, erroneous and tardy” actions of the authorities. Representatives of Galicia’s intellectual circles, writers, artists protested against the incompetent and irresponsible actions of the authorities. To tell the truth, the reaction of Russian people to the same problem would be much quieter as compared with Spain.

Even the provisional report about consequences of the ecological disaster were enough for the European Union to express its reaction to the problem. According to BBC, safety of oil tankers is a crucial problem for the European Union, where 90% of the oil supplies are delivered by sea. Nevertheless, officials in Brussels are sure that the ban against single-bull tankers won’t result in a sudden oil shortage in the European Union.

The EU transport ministers agreed to introduce a ban on the entry of potentially dangerous vessels to European ports, single-bull tankers with heavy oil products on board particularly. The decision followed a similar recommendation of the European Commission issued this week. Starting with 2010, vessels of this type won’t be able to enter even the economic zone of European countries. Moreover, EU ministers declared that they would demand adoption of the same measures from countries claiming to enter the European Union and from Russia, as it is Europe largest oil supplier. Besides, it was decided to immediately write off all vessels which are more than 23 years old.

It is a serious problem for Russia by the way, as majority of Russian tankers are much older than the above mentioned age. And those oil pipeline which currently operate, cannot transport great amount of oil to Europe. In any case, Russia will obviously have to pay up if it wants to remain Europe largest oil supplier. It needs new tankers and new oil pipelines. What is Russia’s response to the posed problem? There is none; it’s a weekend in Russia.

Ahtyam Ahtyrov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://world.pravda.ru/world/2002/5/14/36/4015_.html

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