Fuel smuggling trial stalls again

As the government scrambles to play down the repercussions of a sunken oil tanker that has polluted much of the Athenian coastline, the trial of crew members of a cargo vessel dispatched to help pump the fuel out of the wreck appeared to descend into farce.

The Lassea tanker had been helping pump the residual fuel out of the Agia Zoni II until an inspection by customs and coast guard authorities last week turned up significant quantities of fuel in the ship’s hold that was not legally accounted for.

The Lassea’s captain and first engineer were subsequently charged with fuel smuggling and had been due to face trial on Thursday.

However, proceedings were put off until Friday due to an absence of the required reports and prosecution witnesses and then postponed again until September 28.

The key document required is one showing the level of customs charges that were evaded in this particular alleged case of fuel smuggling.

Meanwhile, as efforts continue to contain the environmental pollution wreaked by hundreds of tons of fuel that have spread along the Athens coastline, it emerged that the Shipping Ministry is drafting legislation that would deem vessels aged over 30 years old as unseaworthy as of January 1, 2022.

Vessels aged between 20 and 30 years would be deemed seaworthy subject to certain preconditions, according to the same draft legislation.

Shipping Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis on Friday again rejected calls from opposition parties to submit his resignation over what they described as his delayed response to the environmental disaster in the Saronic Gulf.

Citing the electorate that voted for him, Kouroublis said that “society has judged each one of us and has given each authority,” he told Parliament.

The minister denied that the government had delayed in its response and went on the offensive, blaming the decisions of previous governments for the disaster, as well as the media for peddling “propaganda.”

New Democracy, for its part, accused the government of covering up for Kouroublis.

“The inept minister is being covered by an inept prime ministry,” said New Democracy vice president Adonis Georgiadis.

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