J. D. D. Ruano, A. Rodríguez & E. Santiago, Facultad de Sociología, Universidad de A Coruña, A Coruña, Spain

On the 25th of April, 2007 the European Parliament agreed the modification of the directive 2002/59/EC which establish -among other things- that Member States should draw up measures to give refuge to ships is distress in their ports or in any other sheltered areas in order to limit the consequences of accidents at sea. As far as places of refuge is concerned the modification of the directive indicate that Member States should compile previous information about possible sheltered areas on the coast so that in case of accidents or incidents at sea, the proper authorities can point out the most appropriate areas to shelter the ships in distress as quickly as possibly. The previous information should include a description of the physical, environmental and social characteristics of the places and the means and facilities available to assist the ships that had an accident or those which are fighting against the consequences of a polluting spillage.

So, the importance of social aspects when it comes to determine the shelter areas or ports of refuge in Spain is nowadays one of the biggest problems to apply this Community Directive independently of the political tendencies of the national, regional or local government. In fact the cases of the vessels “Prestige” In November 2002, and “Ostedijk” in February 2007 are two examples of the difficulty to implement the Directive in our country. So, due to the social alarm and the reluctance shown by people from coastal areas to shelter both vessels, it is decided to move these ships in distress further away. This measure was de subject of political, social and media controversy over the decision.

In this context our research group’s experience on collective risk management has developed from the analysis evaluation and suggestion of social criteria which improve the social acceptances of controversial facilities (Ref. CSO2008-00324).

Our paper has two objectives:

  1. To analyse empirically the social image in Galicia (Spain) of the areas and ports of refuge following in detail all the arguments, on the relevant opinions and connotations about this refuge areas on the coast.
  2. To supply the necessary knowledge demanded about the social factors which affect the possible available refuge areas. This is, to define the criteria which contribute to the social acceptance of the ports and areas of refuge in Galicia (Spain).

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