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EU List 'Names and Shames' Dangerous Ships

December 3, 2002

After a weekend of protests in Spain concerning the Prestige oil tanker disaster, the European Commission releases a blacklist of 66 potentially dangerous ships.

As clean up efforts in Spain continue, the EU attempts to ensure safety in European watersImage: AP

More than 200,000 people gathered in Spain's Galicia region over the weekend to protest the Spanish government's handling of the Prestige tanker disaster. As oil continued to drift towards the coastline, angry locals braved driving rain to get the message out that the government had done too little, too late, in the wake of the tanker's messy demise.

The people of the province have spent the past two weeks fighting against an initial 6,000-ton slick that came ashore after the Prestige, an aging single-hulled tanker registered in Liberia and flagged to the Bahamas, was holed in storms. Around 5,500 tons have already been pumped from the sea by vessels from Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway.

A seabird victim of the oil spill.Image: AP

The slick has fouled more than 100 beaches to date and forced a fishing ban along 400 kilometers of coastline, crippling the local economy. An estimated 15,000 seabirds have also been killed or covered in oil since the Prestige broke apart.

Submarine reveals no immediate threat of further spills

Then, on Sunday, the first patches of oil from the second major slick arrived. With fears growing that the sunken tanker may spill its remaining load, a French mini-submarine was sent down to the wreck. The crew found no sign that the estimated 60,000 tons still on board the Prestige were leaking -- boosting hopes that the fuel had congealed in the freezing ocean depths.

As the cleanup operation along the Spanish coast continues in earnest, the European Commission on Tuesday released a blacklist of 66 ships that it considers to be too dangerous for European waters.

Oil and Chemical tankers amongst 66 shamed ships

The ships, mostly oil and chemical bulk carriers, have been "named and shamed" in an attempt to avoid the further exploitation of lax standards that led to the decrepit Prestige entering European waters in such an unsafe condition. The commission also wants all single-hulled tankers, like the Prestige, banned from transporting fuel oil through European waters.

The plans will be discussed by European transport ministers at a summit in Copenhagen next week.

Blacklisted vessels all have previous warnings on record

The dangerous vessels include 26 sailing under the Turkish flag while 12 are flagged to St Vincent and Grenadines in the Caribbean and nine to Cambodia. A total of 13 flags are represented. The Commission said all the ships on the list of shame had been detained in European ports on several occasions in the past for failing to comply with safety rules.

Kalenderblatt 19.11.2002 Prestige gesunken
The 'Prestige' oil tanker.Image: AP

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

"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."

The new tough stance was put to the test over the weekend when the 17-year-old Moskovsky Festival, carrying 25,000 metric tons of fuel oil from Estonia to Gibraltar, was ordered out to sea by Spanish and Portuguese authorities who had expressed concerns about its safety.