As Cleanup Resumes, Sunken Greek Tanker Watched for Leaks

FILE - Workers clean up the sea next to a floating boom at the site where the small tanker Agia Zoni II sank off the island of Salamina near Athens, on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – With hired vessels cleaning the capital city’s shore and beaches from an oil spill, the tanker that sank and released the fuel was being monitored to make sure more isn’t getting out into the sea.

The Agia Zoni II, said to be unseaworthy, sank off the island of Salamina Sept. 10 near the major port of Piraeus and it took three days for Greek authorities – Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis was in London then – to ask for aid, the European Commission said, which he denied.

Hundreds of tons of oil have fouled the shore and beaches and the effect could linger for years, maritime analysts said. Greek officials said the cleanup will take only a few weeks.

Another ship was pumping fuel out of the sunken vessel with another standing by in case a problem develops, Kathimerini said.

They were sent for the removal process after a first ship, the Lassaia. sent there was found with unaccounted for fuel oil in its hold although officials wouldn’t say it if came from the Aghia Zoni and had been stolen.

The Captain and First Engineer of the Lassaia were taken into custody after an inspection by Customs and Coast Guard authorities saw them charged with fuel smuggling. Their appearances in court have been delayed, typical for the Greek justice system.

Fuel smuggling is common in Greece with inspectors saying they don’t have the budget or manpower to stop it.

The owner of the Agia Zoni II, Theodoros Kountouris, said he had provided prosecutors with evidence that his company is being targeted and said other ships are also responsible for the oil being found in the sea and on the shore. He said there’s a conspiracy to get him.

Marine experts said reports the weather could worsen may also lead to more oil coming out of the Aghia Zoni, which still has 700 cubic meters in the hold.