Oil spill in Peru: claim for $4.5 billion in damages

Oil spill in Peru: claim for $4.5 billion in damages

The Peruvian government estimates that at least 5,000 fishermen and traders have been affected.

According to the oil company, the accident was due to the “uncontrolled movement” of the tanker. PERUVIAN NAVY / AFP

A Peruvian civil court on Wednesday agreed to hear a claim for $4.5 billion in damages against Spanish petrochemical giant Repsol and five other companies seeking compensation for the January oil spill. The equivalent of 12,000 barrels of crude spilled into the sea during unloading operations from an Italian oil tanker at a refinery belonging to Repsol.

According to the oil company, the accident was due to the “uncontrolled movement” of the oil tanker Mare Doricum due to the strong swell caused by the powerful volcanic eruption in the Tonga islands which caused a tsunami in the Pacific. The oil slick pushed by the currents up to 140 km north of the refinery has killed thousands of fish and seabirds and put hundreds of artisanal fishermen out of work. In the middle of the austral summer, the area’s tourist sector was hit hard.

The Peruvian government estimates that at least 5,000 fishermen and traders were directly affected by the oil spill at the La Pampilla refinery, located 30 km north of Lima. The National Institute for the Defense of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property (INDECOPI) is claiming three billion dollars for the environmental damage caused and an additional 1.5 billion dollars as compensation for the loss of earnings.

“The 27th Specialized Civil Court of Lima (…) has forwarded the claim for damages filed” by Indecopi, the government agency said in a statement. Repsol has not yet reacted, but when the complaint was filed in May, the company called it “unfounded, inadmissible and incongruous”, deeming these estimates “devoid of any basis to support the figures indicated”. The other companies mentioned are Mapfre Global Risks (Spain), Mapfre Peru Insurance and Reinsurance Companies (Peru), La Pampilla Raffinerie (Peru), Transtotal Maritime Agency (Peru) and Fratelli d’amico Armatori (Italy, owner of the tanker involved).

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