Balearic University professor Ramon Bergueiro claimed yesterday that the problems caused by the Prestige oil slick “would have been much less dramatic,” if the Galician government had accepted the contingency plan offered by the Balearic government. Bergueiro is one of the authors of the plan, designed to anticipate and combat the effects of an oil spill off the Balearic coasts, which involves cleaning up and restoring the polluted coastline. According to Josep Maria Costa, the Balearic minister of the interior, the Balearic government offered the central and Galician governments a complex computer programme, which could have been adapted to counteract some of the most serious consequences of the oil spill. Bergueiro said that the plan would have been particularly useful with the 70'000 tons of oil deposited on the sea bed at a depth of some 3'500 metres when the Prestige sank. It is impossible to work at that depth, he said, and the situation will give rise to another problem: corrosion means that the rest of the oil will leak and rise to the surface in ten to 15 years. Berguiero and Costa were speaking at the presentation of the plan, the fruit of an agreement signed in 1999 between the University and the ministry, in which the government has invested 90'000 euros. Bergueiro, who is from Galicia, said that if the Galician authorities had used the programme developed by his team, the best solution would have been to tow the stricken vessel to a port. He said that this would have been “a high political risk” but it would have made it possible to unload the oil at a refinery such as the one in La Coruña, break up the ship and have the port “impeccable” in about six months. This operation would not have been risk-free as there was always the danger of it breaking up near the coast.