INTERTANKO is horrified at the outrageous majority finding that it is legitimate to set bail at a â€˜pirateâ€™s ransomâ€™ for a responsible shipâ€™s master involved in accidental pollution. The potential for politically motivated decisions empowered by the level of public outcry is obvious, as are the fearful implications for every seafarer, who by this decision, loses his right to natural justice.
The ECHR says,
â€œNew realities had to be taken into consideration in interpreting the requirements of Article 5 § 3, namely the growing and legitimate concern both in Europe and internationally in relation to environmental offences and the tendency to use criminal law as a means of enforcing the environmental obligations imposed by European and international law.â€
This is a terrifying conclusion for the maritime industry, suggesting that basic issues of liberty will be overridden by concerns over pollution. The ECHR goes on to say:
â€œGiven the exceptional nature of the applicantâ€™s case and the huge environmental damage caused by the marine pollution, which had seldom been seen on such a scale, it was hardly surprising that the judicial authorities should have adjusted the amount required by way of bail in line with the level of liability incurred, so as to ensure that those responsible had no incentive to evade justice and forfeit the security.â€
In this way, the majority judges lose themselves in the environmental disaster and its financial consequences. They overlook the fact that the case before them concerns the liberty of an ordinary man for whom bail should be set to reflect his actions not the consequences of his actions, and his personal means not those assumed of a third party.
Apostolos Ioannis Mangouras was the captain of the ship Prestige which in November 2002 broke up in the Bay of Biscay in a severe storm after being refused refuge in Spanish waters, releasing the 70,000 tonnes of fuel oil it was carrying into the sea, causing serious damage to the environment.
Faced with Spainâ€™s refusal to give the ship refuge, Capt Mangouras courageously did everything he could to save his crew and his ship and its cargo and protect the environment by minimising pollution, ending up forced by the Spanish authorities against his better judgement to take the ship out to sea in a storm.
For these actions, described as â€˜exemplaryâ€™ in the flag stateâ€™s investigation, he has been treated like a criminal.
â€œIt is simply unacceptable that shipsâ€™ officers, having committed no fault, be treated as common criminals because of the consequences of their actions, when the actions themselves are above reproach,â€ says INTERTANKOâ€™s Managing Director Dr Peter Swift, continuing, â€œand in addition it is also completely unacceptable that they should now face being held to ransom as scapegoats for the environmental lobby. Had the P & I Club insurers not acted with compassion, Capt Mangouras, now 75, would likely still be in jail in Spain awaiting trial. Eight years on, can that be fair or just?â€