Salvage company manages to turn damaged oil tanker

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

A CORUNA, Spain -- A salvage company managed Monday to turn a damaged tanker so that its ruptured hull no longer faces the waves -- reducing the risk the ship will split and spill the nearly 20 million gallons of fuel oil that remain on board.

But as tugboats continued to pull the ship southwest, away from Spain, and the salvagers sought a port to do repairs or transfer the oil to another vessel, Portugal warned it would not allow the crippled ship into any of its ports.

The Portuguese Navy was sending a warship to the limit of Portugal's waters to prevent the Prestige entering without permission, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported.

The tanker has leaked additional fuel into the rich fishing grounds off Spain's northwestern coast, said Lars Walder, spokesman for the Dutch SMIT salvage company.

The amount of the additional spill was not immediately known.

The Spanish government warned late Monday that the oil spilled so far could seep into some of the many inlets that penetrate Galicia like crooked fingers, depending on the sea's currents.

The ship is roughly on the border of areas where Spain and Portugal have responsibility for maritime rescue operations, the ministry added.

The Prestige spilled more than 800,000 gallons of fuel oil when it ruptured during a storm Wednesday, blackening sea birds and beaches near the city of A Coruna and prompting Spain to close some 60 miles of its coastline to fishing.

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