Tanker being used in Greece oil spill cleanup to be replaced

Markets Associated Press

A tanker being used to pump oil from a sunken ship that is polluting the coastline around Greece's main port of Piraeus is to be replaced because its certificate of seaworthiness is expiring, Greek authorities said Tuesday.

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Merchant Marine Deputy Minister Nektarios Santorinios said the swap would not delay the pumping operation for more than a few hours. The government has ordered expiring seaworthiness certificates not to be extended, after it emerged that the tanker which sank on Sept. 10 was operating on an extended certificate.

The Agia Zoni II tanker sank while anchored in calm seas with 2,200 tons of fuel oil and 370 tons of marine gas oil. Part of its cargo spilled into waters where dolphins, turtles, seals and a variety of fish and sea birds live.

Oil slicks have extended from the island of Salamina near where the sinking occurred to the entire length of the Athens coast, and cleanup crews have been working on land and at sea to clear up the viscous, foul-smelling liquid.

Santorinios said during an interview on state-run ERT television that the situation was "steadily improving." He said authorities believe the greater part of the oil spill will have been cleaned up from the sea and coastlines in 20-30 days. The pumping of the sunken tanker's cargo from its holds is expected to last for about 15-20 days.

On Monday, the World Wildlife Fund in Greece filed a lawsuit over the pollution, saying it considered the case to be "an environmental crime deserving exemplary punishment." The group filed the suit against "anyone found responsible," a common legal practice in Greece when a culprit has not been formally identified.