Oil spill in Athens paralyses economy and drives tourists away

Businesses closed and tourists have left Athens earlier, due to extensive sea pollution. “We lost our income” point out local business owners.

The Greek authorities banned swimming at beaches in the Athenian coastline of the Argo-Saronic Gulf. After the sinking of an oil tanker on September 14, the Ministries of Health and Environment forbid access to the 20 kilometer stretch from the port of Piraeus, Greece’s main port, to Glyfada, one of the most popular tourist sites in the city.

“We lost our income. Our region is famous for fresh fish, and now we must deal with a sea full of dead fish. No one wants to come here anymore, ” Giorgos Moustakis, the owner of a fish market, told The Scoop. Moustakis is the supervisor of 65 professional and amateur fishing boats in the closed harbor of Salamina.

Several boats in Salamina were damaged, and Moustakis estimated the repair cost between 500 to 1,000 euros. The residents hope that the government will make its best for direct compensation.

“People, who come every year to spend their holidays on the island have left and with them the tourists as well. Suddenly, the economy crashed,” the mayor of Salamina, Isidora Nannou, told The Scoop.

The municipality’s next step is to take legal action against the shipping company and to ensure compensation for the residents, she added.

The impact on tourism is already evident for businesses operating in the coastal zone.

“The image of black shores and the odour affects the activity of at least 50 hotel units operating along the coastal front,” Alexandros Vasilikos, head of the Athenian Hotel Union told The Scoop.

An unknown number of tourists have canceled their reservations, some of them have left the hotels and the number of new bookings has dropped, he explained.

“For us, this is a catastrophe. At this point, we know the situation is bad. However, we don’t know exactly how bad it is,” Vasilikos continued.Businesses bet a lot on September as thousands of tourists choose to go on holidays in the latest months of summer.

Businesses bet a lot on September as thousands of tourists choose to go on holidays in the latest months of summer.

“This is a major blow,” Kostas Manoudakis told The Scoop. Manoudakis, who owns the Panorama restaurant located near the port of Piraeus, had hoped “these two months would save the season.”

“Now everything is closed, and we lose customers and valuable revenue,” he said, estimating that the problem will not be temporary, as the decontamination process is taking too long.

Meanwhile, the Hellenic Ministry of Mercantile Marine, responsible for coordinating the decontamination work is facing intense criticism for being neglectful.

The Minister of Mercantile Marine promised the residents of the affected areas that the decontamination process would be completed within 20 days.

Two weeks later, Thodoris Kanellos, a representative of the Ministry of Mercantile Marine, contradicted the statement. He explained that the Ministry doesn’t have a clear image of how long the process will take, as the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) continues to take water samples from all the polluted areas of the coastline.

“So far, there is an improvement, and the cleanup work will not stop if the Ministry does not receive the green light from the HCMR,” a representative of the Ministry of Mercantile Marine, told The Scoop.

“The decontamination process will last more than four months and the rehabilitation process of the marine ecosystem may take more than a year,” said Yannis Hatzianestis, the director of the HMCR to The Scoop.

Regarding the compensation for the affected residents and businesses, Kanellos confirmed that they would all receive compensation, although it’s too early to estimate the sum of money they will receive.

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