LONDON (UK) – Compensation payments announced today for the victims of the Prestige oil spill are “a grim joke”, according to environment pressure group Friends of the Earth.

The ageing, single-hulled tanker Prestige sank on November 13th 2002, with a cargo of 77,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, much of which has now washed onto the coast of Spain, Portugal and France. The London-based International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund, financed largely through levies on the oil industry, has agreed to pay no more than £107 million (150 million euros) for clean-up and compensation. The IOPC fund is believed to total no more than £122 million (171 million euros). The Spanish Government has estimated cleanup costs so far at £200 million (280 million euros). To this must be added the economic losses to the Spanish fishing industry, the tourist trade etc. The IOPC itself has estimated total losses at £716 million (1 billion euros).

Friends of the Earth was the first organisation to expose the complex web of ownership behind the Prestige and its cargo. The ship was registered in the Bahamas, but owned by a branch of the troubled Greek shipping dynasty the Coulouthros family. The oil was owned by traders Crown Resources, a subsidiary of the giant Russian conglomerate Alfa Group. Neither Alfa nor the ship owners are believed to have offered any direct compensation for the Prestige disaster.

Commenting, Friends of the Earth International Vice-Chair Tony Juniper said:

“This level of compensation is a grim joke. The Prestige disaster is one of the worst oil spills in European history. But both the shipping and oil industries hide behind a complex web of offshore companies and surrogates. This might have been designed specifically to avoid having to meet the real costs of their polluting activities. Hundreds of miles of coastline, much precious wildlife, and the economic future of tens of thousands of people have all been blighted by this disaster. The need for new international law to make companies accountable for the environmental cost of their behaviour has never been greater.”


Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
media team in London: Tel: 020 7490 1555 Fax: 020 7490 0881 Email:

Friends of the Earth Spain, in Galicia (SPAIN): Xulio Lopez Tel +34-988 374318 or +34-649-752351 (mobile) -in SPANISH only-