BRASILIA/ATHENS – Brazilian investigators said on Friday a Greek-flagged ship carrying Venezuelan crude was the source of oil tarring Brazil’s coastline over the past two months, but the firm running the ship said its voyage finished “uneventfully.”
A federal police document seen by Reuters said the tanker, Bouboulina, owned by Greece’s Delta Tankers Ltd, appears to have spilled the crude about 700 km (420 miles) off Brazil’s coast around July 28-29, after loading the oil at Venezuela’s Jose terminal.
Delta Tankers said the Bouboulina had left Venezuela on July 19 bound for Melaka, Malaysia, “where she discharged her entire cargo without any shortage.” In a statement, the company said the trip proceeded “uneventfully,” adding that it would cooperate with the probe, “if contacted.”
The contradicting accounts, along with the execution of police search warrants in Rio de Janeiro, brought a dramatic twist in the investigation of the mysterious oil spill that has stained tropical beaches along 2,500 km of Brazil’s coast.
Brazil’s solicitor general said the country would seek damages in the case, which has hurt tourism and fishing communities in the poorer northeast region.
“There is strong evidence that the company, the captain and the vessel’s crew failed to communicate to authorities about the oil spill/release of the crude oil in the Atlantic Ocean,” Brazilian prosecutors said in a statement.
Federal police also carried out searches at the Rio de Janeiro addresses of maritime services companies Lachmann and Witt O’Briens, a subsidiary of Seacor Holdings Inc, according to a search warrant document seen by Reuters.
The police confirmed that they had raided two firms, without naming them. They said neither company was suspected of criminal activity, but said both had commercial relationships with the “Greek firm” in question.
Witt O’Briens said the ship and operator under investigation had never been its clients in Brazil, adding that the activities of its Brazil office were unrelated to any kind of contract that could be relevant to the police inquiries.
Shipping agency Lachmann did not respond to a request for comment.