Erika inquiry demands tough "black" oil rules

Flammable oil regulations should apply to heavy oils; Council of Europe says all polluters should pay

An official French report on the Erika shipwreck has called for tighter controls on the transport of "black" oil products such as the heavy fuel oil spilled by the Maltese-registered ship.

A government committee (CPEM) joined the European Commission in calling for stricter maritime safety standards (ENDS Daily 12 January). Its report says that tankers carrying black products - fuel oil, tar and crude oil - should be subject to the same safety requirements as ships transporting more volatile "white" products - naptha, kerosene, petrol and gasoline. Black products are considered worse pollutants than white ones but are less of an explosive risk.

The report also recommends that French oil firms - like Totalfina, which owned the Erika's cargo - should favour French carriers when hiring tankers. In addition, the CPEM calls on Malta to introduce a list of all ships registered on the island and to set up a national maritime inspection service. At present, routine inspections on ships are carried out by private companies with no regular controls.

Meanwhile, the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe today called for the 'polluter pays' principle to be applied to all parties involved in the Erika disaster. The environment committee of the 41-nation bloc said there was an urgent need to ensure that every company involved in hiring the Erika were made to pay for environmental damage caused by the oil spill. Under current international law, the carrier and not the owner of the cargo carries liability (ENDS Daily 7 January).

Follow Up:
French transport ministry, tel: +33 1 40 81 21 22. See also the CPEM report. Council of Europe, tel: +33 3 88 41 20 00.

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