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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 07:17 GMT
Tanker safety tug plan starts
Sea Empress
A tug could have towed the tanker to sea
Almost six years on from the Sea Empress disaster, the coastline of south west Wales is to have an emergency salvage tug on permanent duty.

Eight years after such a scheme was first recommended, the Far Sky, is to be on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The tug, which is based in Falmouth, is looked upon as a floating insurance policy - should a crippled oil tanker or cargo ship once again threaten Welsh shores.

The Sea Empress in dry dock
The Sea Empress under repair

The development comes after moves to head off a repeat of the oil disaster, which devastated more than 100 miles of Welsh coastline, have been speeded up by the European Parliament.

MEPs have voted to accelerate the phasing out of single-hull oil tankers and to replace them with safer double-hull vessels.

The single-hulled Sea Empress spilled more than 72,000 tonnes of crude oil into the sea when it ran aground at the entrance to Milford Haven estuary in Pembrokeshire, west Wales.

A marine accident investigation report later concluded that oil pollution would have been avoided in the initial grounding if the vessel had been constructed to the double-hull design.

Sea bird caught in oil slick
Thousands of seabirds were killed in the disaster

Critics also argued that having a powerful tug on hand to tow the vessel into open water would also have reduced the environmental destruction.

The deployment of the Far Sky should go some way to assauging fears that a Sea Empress-like disaster could be repeated.

See also:

15 Dec 01 | Wales
Tanker design rules welcomed
16 Jan 99 | UK
Record fine for oil spill
12 Jan 99 | Sci/Tech
Another Empress before long
13 Jan 99 | Sci/Tech
Assessing the oil spill impact
14 Feb 01 | Wales
Tug plan marks Empress disaster
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