The French oil giant Total is among 15 groups and individuals that have gone on trial today over the Erika disaster. Bringing the charges are no less than 74 plaintiffs.
One of them is the chairman of the Vendée regional council, one of the worst affected areas of the catastrophic oil spill.
He claims that if Total had known they would be held responsible, they would not have used the rusting Erika tanker, implying they thought they could pass the buck.
Total’s lawyers reject any blame: “The company only uses certified tankers that carry papers proving seaworthiness. Erika was approved by the ports and had passed a test just 15 months earlier.”
Among those in the dock alongside Total are the Italian company that passed the Erika fit to sail, French maritime officials, and the ship’s management and owner. But not the ship’s Indian captain, who is currently fleeing an international arrest warrant.
Over the course of the trial, due to last until June, almost a hundred lawyers will sift through mountains of documents to try to address the many unanswered questions surrounding the sinking of the Erika and the disaster that followed.
The oil spill prompted the EU’s recent crackdown on green crime, aimed at making accountability more transparent.