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Monday, 6 August, 2001, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Tanker sinks off Kuwait
An oil tanker reportedly breaking UN sanctions against Iraq has sunk off the coast of Kuwait after it was intercepted by a US-led naval force.

"The ship was sinking very fast and the 12 Iraqi crew had no other alternative but to abandon the vessel," said Lieutenant Melissa Schuermann, spokeswoman for the Multinational Interception Force.

The crew of the Honduran-registered Georgios was rescued by the US-led monitoring force, who had boarded the ship.

The tanker was carrying around 900 tonnes of crude oil when it sank, an official at the Bahrain-based Marine Emergency Mutual Centre said.

The resulting oil slick did not appear to pose a threat to nearby coastlines, because the vessel had sunk "right in the middle of the Gulf".

Poor safety standards

oil tanker
Iraq uses old vessels to transport smuggled oil

The ship had no log and lacked safety standards, the official said.

In April, a tanker smuggling Iraqi fuel oil sank off the United Arab Emirates, causing the Gulf state's worst environmental disaster in decades.

Tankers carrying smuggled Iraqi oil routinely pass through the waters of the Gulf, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Lt Schuermann said efforts would be made to repatriate the crew.

Since the beginning of the year, the US-led force has questioned the crews of 1,384 ships, boarded 690 vessels and diverted 56 ships in its work of enforcing UN sanctions against Iraq.

See also:

16 Apr 01 | Middle East
Gulf tanker spill 'under control'
26 Feb 01 | Middle East
Powell aims to plug Iraqi oil flow
30 Jan 01 | Middle East
Iran proposes anti-pollution force
23 Jan 01 | Americas
Spotlight on oil transport risks
22 Nov 00 | Middle East
Iraq denies oil exports to Syria
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