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Commission proposes measures to stop oil spills on European coastlines

The European Commission has adopted a communication on the safety of sea-borne oil trade, in which it calls for governments in the EU Member States, the European Parliament and EU industry to accept proposals to reduce the risk of accidents and pollution.

The Communication co...
The European Commission has adopted a communication on the safety of sea-borne oil trade, in which it calls for governments in the EU Member States, the European Parliament and EU industry to accept proposals to reduce the risk of accidents and pollution.

The Communication comes in the wake of recent devastation to a 400 kms of the Brittany coastline after the oil tanker ERIKA - a single hulled 25 year old boat - broke in two. ERIKA leaked more than 10,000 tons of heavy oil, causing massive damage to wildlife, as well as to the region's fishing and tourist industries.

The changes to current legislation now proposed by the Commission are aimed to ensure this type of accident does not happen again.

The Communications includes proposals for the following measures:

- Control of ships visiting Community ports should be reinforced and ships not meeting the norms should be dealt with severely;
- Classification societies should be controlled more thoroughly. (These societies are responsible for checking the structural soundness of ships);
- Oil tankers with a single hull should be banned from EU waters, and phased out according to a calendar (based on tonnage) already used in the USA.

In a second stage, later in the year, the Commission envisages complementary proposals on the following:

- Systematic exchange of information between all actors in the maritime economy;
- Improved surveillance of maritime navigation;
- The creation of a European structure for maritime safety;
- Measures relating to the responsibility of the different actors in the maritime transport of sea-borne oil trade.

The Commission has also called on all petrol companies to act before the proposal becomes legally binding and enter into a voluntary agreement not to charter tankers more than 15 years old.

Commissioner for Transport and Energy, Mrs Loyola de Palacio said:

'I recognise that the action we are recommending has cost implications for Member States and for industry, but we have to strike a balance. It is only when all the existing parties accept their responsibility and our rules are enforced that we can maintain Europe's standards, minimise the risk of damage to our environment and protect the interests of all the European citizens.'
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