Minister says resignation offer was ‘wordplay,’ as furor grows over oil spill


Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis on Thursday sought to play down an earlier statement that his resignation over an oil spill that has sullied the Saronic Gulf’s coastlines “is at the prime minister’s disposal,” as the main opposition called for him to step down.

“It took dozens of years to clean up the Saronic Gulf and just one of ineptitude for serious environmental damage to be done,” conservative New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis posted on his Twitter account while visiting three municipalities on Athens’s southern coast that have been hit by the spill. “The least Mr [Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras can do is accept Mr Kouroublis’s resignation.”

“It was a play on words,” Kouroublis told the ANA-MPA news agency when asked to comment on his earlier statement to Parapolitika radio. “I said that my resignation is at the prime minister’s disposal every day because I have fought throughout the years to ensure that this right rests with him.”

Kouroublis said that “all the means available in the country” have been mobilized in the fight to contain the spill from the Agia Zoni II tanker, which sank on Sunday near Salamina under circumstances that are currently being investigated, carrying a cargo of 25,000 tons of fuel.

The spill started spreading across the coast of Salamina on Monday before reaching Athens on Wednesday, and prompting to close their beaches, citing public health hazards.

The European Union's Civil Protection Mechanism, meanwhile, has deployed a specialized cleanup vessel to help in the recovery effort.