Read through archived FRONTLINE/World
conversations around this story below, including responses
from the reporter.
Anonymous - New York, New York
I am a classification surveyor who previously worked with
ABS and is now employed by one of ABS's major competitors.
I will tell you this incident is a total failure of the
Owners' responsibility to properly maintain the vessel and
notify the society in the event of damages, repairs, etc.
In fact, ABS should have been notified of the repairs
(for consultation and approval) of welders supplied onboard
and for what purpose, areas to be repaired, equipment used,
welding consumables, steel material, etc.
In addition to classification, from July 1998, ESP tanker
vessels now have ISM (International Safety Management) that
is to ensure vessels are maintained properly by crew, supplied
material and resources by Owners, damages reported to class
and flag state, etc. Obviously there was a total failure
The Owners are the vessels first line of action as it
relates to pro-active action for maintenance and repair
the vessel, informing class, port state officials, etc.
The vessel should never have been loaded with cargo and
the vessel master having "OVER-RIDING AUTHORITY" of the
vessel at sea could have prevented this incident. The Master
is the Owners' representative onboard and the terminated
Master or Master who loaded the vessel could have attempted
to notify the port officials, ABS or vessel flag state,
if [the] Owners ignored [a] request of assistance from shore.
Jeremy Rice - Marina del Rey,
I am responding to the Anonymous former ABS employee.
Like most professionals he believes in the rules of the
profession he works in. In his case, the rules that govern
shipping are antiquated. In a hypothetical world of shipping
rules which make sense, a company such as ABS would not
be off the hook. They would be charged with double checking
the company. Their certification would be meaningful.
The ship's owners would not be allowed to do anything
which ABS didn't consult about. In other words, the antiquated
role that ABS plays is one that helps wash the hands of
the ship owners and that should be illegal.
Leonard Witt - Marietta, Georgia
I am into weblogging and I wonder what would happen if citizen
bloggers did all they could to end the obscurity that Mark
Schapiro mentions...What if environmentally oriented bloggers
worldwide decided to find ways to end the obscurity. Documents
could be posted ala "The Smoking Gun". Each new ship registered
around the world is posted. Each spill is noted. Each responsible
owner's name and affairs put on the site. Room is made for
interviews with crew and captains. International companies
that profit from using shabby ships get exposed. Think dozens,
hundreds, maybe thousands of global citizens as watchdogs...
My thoughts are fleshed out at www.biggerbrain.com
and specifically at http://pjnet.org/weblogs/biggerbrain/archives/000066.html...
Reporter Mark Schapiro responds:
Your message raises a critical point: The current structure
of the maritime system offer shipowners the possibility
of operating behind a fog of corporate fronts and hidden
financial interests. Thus, when an accident occurs, it
is extremely difficult to clearly identify the responsible
party or parties. This is also a reflection of the complex
international nature of the maritime business, but in
fact having the ability to shine the light on abusers
of the system could go a long way toward clearing up some
of the more flagrant abuses of the system. Your idea of
a steady web-log is an inspired one -- though I would
caution you as to how difficult it may be to actually
find the abundance of information that's necessary. One
place to start is an interesting and very useful Web site,
www.equasis.org -which provides a rendering of who, at
least on paper, is the owner and manager of most every
ship at sea...as well as its schedule of recent inspections.
But the fact is that it is the certainty of shining the
spotlight on those responsible for a ship's condition
-- and the certainty of being forced to pay for damages
caused -- that would go a long way toward reducing accidents,
at least those linked to the condition of a ship.
Brenda Du Faur - New Orleans,
I mean, what is there to say? Atrocious. No excuse. The
American company that was supposed to inspect the ship not
taking responsibility is too typical. We have a planet and
a world to protect of animals, people, and life. It is so
astounding that there aren't safeguards in place that make
it impossible for horrible others to ruin parts of the world
and habitat because they are in lowness... it is astounding
that bad ships can be let to sale...the whole soul of humanity
can be twisted when you have money higher than the true
things...it's hard to even give words to because it is so
simple what should be done and so profoundly unspeakably
horrible that all these types of disasters are allowed to
occur as if it is just a casual thing to pollute the world
in unspeakable and vile ways... as well as destroy the sacredness
of animal life and the landscape of our very being...
N. Marquez - Anytown, USA
Thank you Frontline for bringing these issues to the fore
front. I have to say it is sad that money is more important
than the richness and diversity of the amazing planet we
I wish people would begin to see the true wealth our planet
holds for us, instead of measuring their wealth against
the [al]mighty dollar.
For the people of Spain and all of those that have suffered
horrible environmental blunders, know that some of us are
working to better our world.
Anonymous - Wailuki, Hawaii
While this story is enlightening, it continues a global
neglect of ocean areas. The re-flagging of ships has been
a political way of continuing "corporate business as usual."
The same has been done with purse seiners to make canned
tuna available to consumers.
The world market is now global with
impacts far reaching. As a biologist, I have talked with
students who live in our island State and they are tired
of cleaning up messes that they are not responsible for.
(I remember these same thoughts when I was growing up in
the 1960s.) They realize the use of plastics throughout
the world have much greater impacts in areas where these
plastics were never used. From birds and other marine organisms
such as turtles, marine mammals and fishes, plastics are
having a devastating effect on natural populations.
Our environmental awareness has
gotten much more complicated than what most people want
to hear about. The cost of our disposable society and cheap
fuel, water, and clean environment comes at an ecological
Our biggest problem is how we give
economic value to appreciated land and business values while
neglecting the cost to restore sustainable environmental
conditions. Corporate businesses often have the choice of
doing what is right but often will try to lobby for tax
Thanks for sharing the many stories
that people need to hear.
C. Weiss - Youngstown, Ohio
The corporate interests need to be held responsible. During
a study abroad program in Spain last year, my daughter had
the opportunity to volunteer at the cleanup site. The devastation
to the local people as well as the smell brought tears to
"A Ship Captain" - Reno, Nevada
I recall that the Prestige was denied entry into various
Spanish ports and also through the Straits of Gibraltar.
I understand the concerns involved, however if the vessel
had been allowed to enter port and the spill contained,
the overall damage would have been much less than the world's
largest spill to date. This fact was left out of your program.
The refusal to the vessel to enter a safe harbor does not
detract from the seriousness of the situation or nor of
the need for reform. The current situation with flags of
convenience is a result of the tax laws of the countries
where the owners reside. You only told half the story.
Indeed, there is much controversy in Spain over how the
Prestige was handled when it started listing
and leaking oil four miles offshore. You are correct:
The captain of the vessel, Apostolo Mangouras, requested
that the ship be brought into a nearby harbor, where he
hoped the growing spill could be contained and perhaps
oil drained off the ship. We did mention this in our broadcast
However, our central question in producing "The Lawless
Sea" was this: What are the forces within the maritime
system that permit a troubled vessel like the Prestige
to hit the open seas with a cargo of highly toxic oil
in the first place?
Markeeda and Imani - Kansas City, Missouri
My 5 year-old daughter, Imani, and I watched this story.
She thought it was very interesting. We think the Prestige
was a horrible injustice and all those involved should pay
for it. The major countries that are involved with international
trade over the waters need to set up laws of prevention,
ASAP. Excellent story.
Anonymous - Beverly Hills, California
The World Court should be given the authority to enforce
laws prohibiting shipping companies from hiding their liabilities
behind flags of convenience and the nations that provide
those methods of eluding ownership should be held liable