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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 14:24 GMT
Estonia declares old tanker seaworthy
Byzantio oil tanker in Tallinn, Estonia
France wants tighter controls on ageing, single-hull tankers
Estonia has said an ageing oil tanker, similar to the Prestige which sank off the Spanish coast earlier this month, is fit to sail to Singapore with 50,000 tonnes of oil.

Estonian experts reached the verdict after carrying out an examination of the 26-year-old Byzantio at France's request.


The inspectors did not find any problems, the ship is in normal condition

Tarmo Ots
Estonian Maritime Administration

The ship will sail past the French coast, after loading up with oil in Rotterdam.

Chartered by the same Russian-owned company that chartered the Prestige, it was meant to have sailed from Tallinn on Wednesday, but is now expected to leave on Friday.

France and Spain agreed on Tuesday to tighten controls on ageing, single-hull tankers after the Prestige broke up and sank off Spain's north-western coast last week, leaking part of its cargo.

Three Estonian inspectors spent four hours aboard the ship, examining its documents and the hull, and only found two minor deficiencies, Tarmo Ots of the Estonian Maritime Administration told BBC News Online.

Thursday's inspection follows another one earlier this year carried out in May in Singapore, he said.

'Floating dump'

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Estonian ministry of transport told the BBC that there was no reason for a special inspection as the Byzantio had recently been checked and no further controls were required.

The French media has described the single-hulled tanker - reported to be Greek-owned - as a "floating dump".

Spain and France agreed on Tuesday to start inspecting vessels deemed dangerous, and if appropriate, to force them out of the 320-kilometre (200 mile) economic exclusion zone around their coastlines.

They said they would push ahead with the measures without waiting for the rest of the European Union to endorse the plan.

The Prestige shed an estimated 11,000 metric tonnes of its cargo of around 70,000 tons of fuel oil, polluting miles of the Galician coastline, killing seabirds and halting fishing.

The rest of the cargo went down with the ship, where authorities hope it will solidify.

A French submarine is currently en route to the site of the sinking to inspect the wreck, and to determine whether oil is continuing to leak out.

Spain's coast and maritime fauna are threatened by the oil spill from the break-up of the Prestige

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26 Nov 02 | Europe
25 Nov 02 | Europe
22 Nov 02 | Europe
19 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
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