Action demanded after Costa del Sol oil slick

Tank cleaning by unidentified vessel pollutes key tourist resorts in southern Spain

Nine days after crude oil, apparently from a tank-cleaning operation in the Straits of Gibraltar, first appeared on the beaches of the Costa del Sol, southern Spain, hydrocarbons are still being washed ashore. Beaches have been forced to close during the height of the summer tourist season and town councils have been forced to conduct repeated cleaning operations along 43km of coastline.

Andalucia's interior ministry yesterday called on the national government to identify the vessel responsible. Representatives of the five most affected resorts met to press for compensation, though they have yet to estimate the full cost of the environmental and commercial damage caused.

According to Antonio Muñoz of environmental group Ecologists in Action, the slick is the latest and most serious of seven tank-cleaning incidents to have affected the coast near the Straits of Gibraltar this year. He told ENDS Daily that the organisation "would be pressing for European involvement" in supervision of the sea way, through which 70,000 vessels pass annually.

However, a spokesperson for Spain's transport ministry, which has responsibility for marine safety, played down the incident's significance. He also told ENDS Daily that it would be "extremely difficult" to identify the vessel responsible.

Follow Up:
Ecologists in Action, tel: +34 956 78 14 30; Spanish transport ministry, tel: +34 91 597 7000.

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