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Maritime pilot hero honoured for preventing disaster

Ljubljana, 13 January - The Environment Ministry has given out its first environmental award on Monday to honour Andrej Gorup, a maritime pilot working in the port of Koper who prevented an environmental disaster in April last year. Gorup rerouted a Swedish oil tanker heading towards the port with an alarming speed.

The view from Izola over the port of Koper.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Last year, Slovenia saw a number of potentially dangerous environmental accidents, including the June kerosene spill, precariously close to the region's water source, and numerous landfill fires, said Environment Minister Simon Zajc today.

A major environmental accident was prevented by Gorup, a pilot at Piloti Koper, a private company that provides piloting service for Slovenia's sole maritime port, who boarded the tanker called Alice, made his way up to its command bridge and gave orders to reduce speed and make a sharp turn, the minister stressed.

"At that moment, the ship was some 200 metres away from the 10-metre high shallows and the first pier," a maritime accident investigator wrote in the incident's report, according to the newspaper Dnevnik.

By making a sharp turn, the tanker did a lap around the port and then safely entered the harbour. What initially spelled disaster was thus transformed into merely a cautionary tale, thanks to Gorup.

"If he had not acted the way he did, numerous animal and plant species could have lost their habitat and our coast would have been faced with an environmental disaster which would affect other areas as well," said Zajc at today's ceremony.

Gorup said he was honoured to be given the award. He pointed out that the ministry had been the first institution or organisation to have contacted him after that challenging day.

He did not want to comment on why the tanker was going so fast, instead saying that he only reacted to a crisis situation. The tanker was carrying between 25,000 and 28,000 tonnes of diesel fuel, according to Gorup's estimate.

© STA, 2020