French authorities discovered a long slick of heavy oil off the east coast of Corsica last week, raising fears that it could wash ashore on the island’s popular beaches.
On Friday, while conducting a training exercise, pilots from the French Navy’s Corsica station observed a 20-nm slick drifting around five nautical miles off the shore and immediately reported it to the higher chain of command. The spill was confirmed by the French Customs vessel Libeccio, which also obtained waste samples for further tests and analysis.
PIONNIER and JASON ( French Navy tugs) and ALTAGNA (Offshore tug) along with many other pollution response vessels, were brought in by the Premier Mediterranee to spruce up the oil spill.
Fearing the spill’s landfall over the weekend, French authorities issued beach closures along with a temporary fishing ban on the 20-nm Corsica coastline stretch. Luckily on Sunday, the spill fragmented into several segments and shifted directions, drifting away from the coast.
Annick Girardin, the French Minister of the sea claimed the oil spill to be an intentional act and said “It is most certainly a [discharge], there are few doubts, it is a malicious act. We are three hours from a port, all this probably to save a few thousand euros. So they are thugs of the sea, that’s how I want to [describe] them.”
Three ships among the 21 suspected vessels are of specific interest, confirmed Girardin and the officials.
In 1983, since MARPOL entered into force, it banned the discharging of untreated oily waste, marking it to be an unlawful practice in an attempt to cut costs. However, it continues to occur quite regularly and is occasionally observed aboard vessels of both big and lesser-known companies.
Oil discharge legislation varies by region. Suspicion of oily water discharge or maintaining altered books of oil record, results in criminal charges in the U.S., referring the suspect to a federal prosecutor. Others may consider a falsified oil record book as a shortcoming of the Port State Control.