Tanker detained by Spain did not cause pollution, manager says

LONDON/MADRID (Reuters) - A tanker that was detained by Spain and accused of discharging fuel in open waters near the northeastern port city of Tarragona did not cause any pollution and followed regulations, its Turkish manager said on Wednesday.

Spanish authorities said on Tuesday they had intercepted the Maltese-flagged Lagertha after a discharge of hydrocarbons was detected by aircraft sensors and satellite radar on Feb. 11, adding that a slick had extended over an area of 12.7 square kilometres. (4.9 square miles)

Istanbul-based Besiktas Shipping Group, which manages the vessel, said the tanker carried out a cleaning of tanks at sea following MARPOL maritime regulations.

"Our vessel was at full compliance with MARPOL during washing and disposal of the tank washings into the sea," the company told Reuters in a statement.

"Any trace from this tank washing discharge operation does not mean a pollution."

Besiktas Shipping said it provided all records to the Spanish port state control officers on Feb 17, adding that the "inspection covering the investigations was completed without any finding" and the vessel was allowed to sail on Feb. 21.

The company added the cargo, which was loaded in Amsterdam, was not a petroleum product but a fatty acid methyl ester fuel.

Spain's Merchant Fleet, a transport ministry department, told Reuters separately on Wednesday that the vessel left the port of Tarragona on Feb. 21 once the conditions set out by the authorities had been met.

"The Directorate General of the Merchant Navy maintains that there is sufficient evidence to initiate a sanctioning procedure for illegal unloading," it said, declining further details.

Spain's Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines have become hubs for shipping activity including the transfer of oil known as ship-to-ship (STS) operations, which industry sources say are becoming an increasing safety concern.

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Emma Pinedo in Madrid; Editing by Mark Potter)