Volunteers are trying to clean up Brazilian beaches in time for the tourism season
Athens (AFP) - The operators of a Greek-flagged tanker considered the "prime suspect" for a series of oil spills along the Brazilian coast in the past two months denied Saturday that the vessel was to blame.
"There is no proof of the vessel having stopped, conducted any kind of STS operation (Ship to Ship), leaked, slowed down or veered off course, on its passage from Venezuela to Melaka, Malaysia," the company Delta Tankers Ltd said in a statement.
The Athens-based company said that it had conducted "a full search of the material from the cameras and sensors that all (our) vessels carry as part of (our) safety and environmental policies".
And as reported in an initial statement on Friday, the vessel -- which the company named as "Bouboulina" -- "sailed from Venezuela in laden condition on July 19, 2019, heading directly, with no stops at other ports, for Melaka, Malaysia, where she discharged her entire cargo without any shortage".
Delta Tankers said it was ready to hand over the result of its internal investigation into the voyage to the Brazilian authorities "which have so far not made contact with us".
Earlier, the Greek authorities had told AFP that a Greek ship was one of five vessels suspected in oil spills that began appearing along 2,000-kilometres (1,200 miles) of Brazil's northeastern Atlantic coast in early September.
- 'Environmental catastrophe' -
A spokeswoman for the Greek coastguard, which answers to the merchant navy ministry, told AFP that "the investigation conducted in Brazil showed that five ships from different countries are suspects, including a Greek one".
The spokeswoman did not give the names of the vessels, which had now left Brazil for unknown destinations, or their owners. But she said that "detailed controls will be carried out by the Greek authorities should those vessels arrive in a Greek port".
Investigators in Brazil studied 1,100 ships navigating through the area, narrowed down the potential culprits to 30, then settled on the Greek-flagged ship as the "prime suspect".
The defence ministry said a search warrant for the ship had been issued, as the attorney general's office said the damage to Brazil's coasts was "immeasurable".
Separately, police raided the Rio de Janeiro offices of a company linked to the owners of the ship, federal police said.
Asked about the raid, Delta Tankers said they had taken place in the premises of a maritime agency with which it was not currently cooperating.
In Brazil, investigations are ongoing to see if the spill was accidental or criminal, the defence ministry said.
Some 264 places across nine Brazilian states have been affected.
Marine animals have died, including tortoises and thousands of volunteers have mobilised to clean beaches with the tourist high season approaching.
"This environmental catastrophe has reached estuaries, mangroves and river mouths all over northeastern Brazil, causing damage to fishing, aquaculture and tourism," the police said in a statement.