Besieged Greek Shipping Minister Defends Response to Oil Spill

Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis. Photo: Eurokinissi/Giannis Panagopoulos

ATHENS – Despite assertions by the European Union Greece delayed three days in asking for help with an oil spill from a sunken tanker – and that aid was sent as soon as it was asked – Greek Shipping Minister Pangiotis Kouroumblis continued to say that was not the case, defending his late response to the disaster.

He was away in London when the Agia Zoni II sank off the island of Salamina, the spill spreading to the nearby port of Piraeus and Athens’ beaches and after returning offered to resign over the debacle but then changed his mind and said he hadn’t done anything wrong.

The problem grew worse when one of the ships hired to help clean up the mess was found with oil in its hold that couldn’t be accounted for but prosecution of the owners has been held up in the courts as other ships try to remove the spill, the effects of which could linger for years according to some maritime analysts.

As Kouroumblis, from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, rejected calls by the major opposition New Democracy Conservatives to resign after it was reported the sunk ship that spilled oil was not seaworthy, the government said vessels more than 30 years old would be certified as not being seaworthy – on Jan. 1, 2022, according to Kathimerini.

Vessels aged between 20 and 30 years would be deemed seaworthy subject to certain preconditions, according to the same draft legislation.

Kouroublis told Parliament he’s staying put, as Tsipras didn’t ask for him to resign, and added that, “society has judged each one of us and has given each authority,” without explaining what that meant.

Despite the European Commission’s assertions over Greek delays in asking for aid he denied it and said he was the victim of propaganda from the media.

New Democracy Vice President Adonis Georgiadis said, “The inept minister is being covered up by an inept ministry,” in his party’s response.