It will take another 20 to 30 days to clean up most of the oil that has seeped from a sunken tanker to sully the coasts of Salamina and southern Athens, Deputy Shipping Minister Nektarios Santorinios said on Monday morning.
Speaking on Skai TV, Santorinios denied accusations that authorities were slow to react to the sinking of the Agia Zoni II tanker near Salamina in the early hours of September 10, saying that a floating barrier to contain the leakage of oil had been installed within a few hours.
“The ship started taking on water at 2.30 a.m. and sank at 4.10 a.m. Coast guard vessels were in the area for any possible rescues but could not approach the ship before it went down, as a sinking ship creates a lot of turbulence and it would have been dangerous. As soon as it did, it was the turn of divers to go down, for a contract to be signed between a cleanup firm and the shipowner, and for the barrier to go up. By 9.40 a.m., the barrier was up,” he said.
In the intervening period, he said quoting estimates from expert cleanup companies, around 300 tons of fuel had leaked from the vessel, which had been carrying a cargo of 250,000 tons.
“I stand beside [Shipping Minister Panayiotis] Kouroublis. If any mistakes were made, we made them together,” said Santorinios, responding to criticism against the senior official and calls for his resignation.
Santorinios said that the causes of the sinking and the ensuing leak – which has prompted health authorities to shut down dozens of beaches along Athens’s southern coast and on the island of Salamina – are as yet unknown but an inquiry is under way.
He also dismissed reports that the Agia Zoni II had not been cleared to sail, saying is had been inspected on August 4 and given a two-month license of seaworthiness.