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Germany

German Ship Joins Oil Clean-Up Effort

The "Neuwerk" is heading toward the scene of the "Prestige" oil disaster off the Spanish northwestern coast in the hope that its specialist pumps can help to prevent an even bigger catastrophe.

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Spanish authorities hope the "Neuwerk" can speed up the clean-up operations off the Galician coast.

A German specialist ship left its home dock of Cuxhaven on Friday making its way to the Galician coast scene of the oil tanker disaster.

The ship, the "Neuwerk," with its crew of 20 is due to arrive off the Spanish northwestern coast in about five days and will assist authorities in trying to prevent further oil slicks from the sunken tanker "Prestige" from reaching the ecologically sensitive coastline.

High-powered pumps

The "Neuwerk" is equipped with custom-made pumps that can suck up high-sea oil slicks.

"We're confident we can get rid of large amounts of the oil," said Leszek Szymanski of Germany's task force for the prevention of pollution on high seas in Cuxhaven.

With its flexible pumps, the ship can vacuum up to 1,000 cubic meters (35,300) of oil from the surface.

Deteriorating conditions

However, their operation is largely dependent on weather conditions as the pumps can only be used in wind forces up to six on the Beaufort scale and in seas no higher than 1.5 meters (five feet).

And the forecast does not bode well. "We're expecting a pretty rough weather front," said Norbert Kersting, the ship's captain.

The Neuwerk was used two years ago off the French coast after the tanker "Erika" sank, spilling around 10,000 tons of oil.

More oil on its way

Tanker Prestige sinkt

The "Prestige" breaking up and sinking with 77,000 tons of fuel oil on board.

Meanwhile, Spanish authorities say around 20,000 tons of fuel oil have escaped from the "Prestige," which broke up and sank on Tuesday with around 77,000 tons of oil on board.

The escaping oil is now moving toward the northern Galician coast, where severe storms are making clean-up operations impossible.

To make matters worse, bureaucratic squabbling between Spanish authorities has delayed the delivery of 200 kilometers of oil booms from the United States.

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