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Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 14:17 GMT
Europe names its 'fleet of shame'
Dead turtle on Spanish beach
The Prestige spill has devasted wildlife
A blacklist of 66 ships deemed too dangerous for European waters has been published by the European Commission.

The ships have been "named and shamed" amid concerns over safety standards in the wake of the Prestige tanker disaster.

The single-hulled vessel went down off the Spanish coast after spewing thousands of tons of fuel oil into the Atlantic.

Words are not enough: it is necessary to act and apply the maritime safety measures in full

Loyola de Palacio
Transport commissioner
A French mini-submarine which reached the wreck on Sunday found no sign that the estimated 60,000 tons still on board were leaking - boosting hopes that the fuel had congealed in the chilly ocean depths.

A second dive was planned for Tuesday.

Dozens of Spanish beaches have already been contaminated by the oil which did escape.

The local fishing industry has been devastated, and an estimated 15,000 seabirds have been killed or covered in oil.

Ship expelled

The disaster has provoked an angry response from France and Spain, which agreed to check all ageing single-hulled vessels in their waters and force them out if necessary.

France, hit by oil from the Erika tanker in 1999, agreed with Spain to go ahead with the measures without waiting for the rest of the EU to endorse them.

Portugal and Italy have introduced similar measures.

The first test of the clampdown came at the weekend, when the Spanish and Portuguese navies ordered a tanker, the Moskovsky Festival, out to sea after concerns about safety.

The 17-year-old vessel was carrying 25,000 metric tons of fuel oil from Estonia to Gibraltar, officials said.

The commission said the 66 ships on its blacklist had been detained on several occcasions in European ports for failing to comply with safety rules.

Most are bulk carriers, although 16 are oil and chemical tankers and one is a passenger vessel.

King Carlos on beach
Spanish King Juan Carlos has been to the scene

The biggest single number of the vessels - 26 - sail under a Turkish flag. Twelve are flagged to the Caribbean nation of St Vincent and Grenadines, and nine to Cambodia. A total of 13 flags are represented.

The Prestige was registered in Liberia and flagged to the Bahamas.

"Words are not enough: it is necessary to act and apply the maritime safety measures in full," said European Transport Commissioner Loyala de Palacio.

"Safety is the responsibility of everyone and a strict application of all the measures is the only way of ensuring that substandard ships do not fall through the safety net."

Fisherman create floats to keep off oil
The fishing industry has been devastated

The commission also wants all single-hulled tankers banned from transporting fuel oil through European waters.

And it is urging members to speed up the implementation of extra safety measures agreed after the Erika sinking, including the appointment of enough staff to inspect at least 25% of ships coming intoport.

"The Commission said at the time these were urgent and needed to be adopted immediately," said Ms De Palacio

"Unfortunately this has been borne out by recent events. Accidents of this kind can and must be avoided."

The plans will discussed by European transport ministers at the Copenhagen summit next week.


Along the shoreline wrecked by the Prestige oil, volunteers have been continuing to scrape tons of oil from beaches.

Around 5,500 tons have been pumped from the sea by vessels from Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway.

Several small oil slicks have been spotted from the air, 10 nautical miles north of Cape Penas, off Spain's northern region of Asturia, officials said.

Gibraltar drama

In a separate incident, a cargo ship slipped out of Gibaltar under cover of darkness after an inspection was ordered, a government spokesman told the French news agency AFP.

The Canyon - also flying the St Vincent and Grenadines flag - was suspected of having defective bilge pumps and a faulty radar.

The port authority ordered the ship to be boarded, and the captain was asked to surrender the ship's papers.

But the ship took on fuel and "steamed out of Gibraltar bay under cover of night, with lights switched off and without her papers," said the spokesman.

Police launches gave chase after the vessel refused to stop, but it sailed on, possibly bound for Piraeus in Greece.

Ports have been alerted, and asked to refuse the vessel entry.

The BBC's Andrew Roy
"From next year single-hulled tankers are barred from carrying certain fuels into EU waters"
Denise Dipek, Turkish Chamber of Shipping
"We have to determine the basis on which this assessment is being made"
Spain's coast and maritime fauna are threatened by the oil spill from the break-up of the Prestige

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See also:

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19 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
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