Two years on from the Ventanilla oil spill

January 15, 2024

Two years ago today, in the district of Ventanilla, on the north coast of Peru, an immense oil spill occurred during the offloading of the oil from a tanker to La Pampilla refinery, owned by Repsol.

A ‘major oil spill’

Initially, Repsol claimed that only seven gallons had been spilled. It later transpired that approximately 12,000 barrels had leaked into the ocean. An area the size of 270 football pitches was damaged, placing the tragedy in the ‘major spill’ category. 

Repsol has been widely criticised for its inadequate response to the oil spill. The disaster has been described by the United Nations as “the worst ecological disaster” in Peru’s recent history.

The International Federation for Human Rights reported that the oil spill killed more than 1,850 species of wildlife, including sea lions, penguins, and several endangered species.

As a result, affected communities have been unable to carry on with their usual livelihoods, such as fishing, which are essential for their subsistence.

Contaminated beaches

The Peruvian government was forced to close the affected beaches on the North coast of Peru for the remainder of 2022, stating that they were unsuitable for human activities. While some beaches were reopened in 2023, governmental authorities have issued several environmental reports concluding that the affected areas are still contaminated and have high levels of hydrocarbons. Many beaches are still not suitable for human activities. 

To this day – 2 years later – the tragedy continues to cause significant social, economic and environmental damage.

Pogust Goodhead and Stichting Environment and Fundamental Rights

Stichting Environment and Fundamental Rights (“SEFR”) is a Dutch non-profit organization that aims to represent the interests of – and obtain justice for – parties who have suffered damages as a result of events that negatively impact the environment, living conditions, working conditions, or human rights. Last week, just days before the second anniversary of the disaster, SEFR filed a claim against Repsol before the District Court of the Hague. Led by Partner Cécile Rouméas, Pogust Goodhead Netherlands has been instructed by Stichting Environment and Fundamental Rights to represent them in their fight for justice against Repsol.

“This is one of Peru’s worst environmental disasters and we will fight for justice for the victims. We are going to show the world what Repsol have done in Peru.”– Tom Goodhead, Global Managing Partner and CEO 

The number of victims participating in the claim exceeds 34,000, including fishermen, restaurant owners, beach vendors and those who work in transport and tourism who have been negatively affected. Many of them are still unable to return to their normal activities due to the extent of the damage caused.

“This lawsuit has important global implications and should send a message to large corporates that when things go wrong in whatever country they are operating from, they will be held accountable. ”Cécile Rouméas, Partner, Pogust Goodhead

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