A tanker carrying 77,000 tons of fuel oil, Prestige, suffered damage to her shell plating on 13 November 2002 when she was 28 miles west of Cape Finisterre.

The saga of whether the Spanish authorities would allow the stricken vessel into a port of refuge was played out in the full glare of the world's press. In a highly controversial move, the Spanish government ordered Prestige to be towed out to sea.There, battered by the winter Atlantic seas, the vessel broke in two and sank on 19 November 2002. The incident resulted in substantial pollution to the coastlines of Spain and France.

The casualty dominated the front pages of the trade press and led to a Europe-wide review of many issues, including the obligation on states to provide a port of refuge, rights of passage for ships in territorial waters and the viability of a complete European ban on ‘single skin' tankers.

Ince & Co represented the shipowners and P&I Club.