E. Santiago, A. Rodríguez, 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.

This paper is focus on the study about the different ways in Spain of understanding the sea risk. Using a qualitative analysis of the ten discussion groups conducted in the project (Ref. CSO2008-00324) we could find and analyze the differences in the public perception of risk by geographic region. While in Galicia and Andalusia is accepted we can not attain absolute security and that the risk of sea accidents is always present. In Catalonia defends the possibility of achieving zero risk disappearing the possibility of an accident. It is essential to study these differences as they require different management by crisis managers and politicians when planning to prevent and if necessary deal in the management of a potential accident.

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