Poor communications caused UK tanker accident

Series of mistakes contributed to loss of 72,000 tonnes of oil from Sea Empress

A series of errors, compounded by poor communications, turned a relatively small tanker incident into a major oil pollution disaster, a UK official body said yesterday. The Sea Empress oil tanker grounded on rocks outside Milford Haven, Wales in February 1996. The tanker eventually spilled nearly 72,000 tonnes of crude oil as it repeatedly hit other rocks for nearly a week while being manoeuvred by salvors and emergency workers. The long-awaited official report on the incident criticised almost all involved in the accident and made 24 recommendations for change. UK environment minister John Prescott immediately ordered a review of salvage and rescue procedures and of the training of harbour pilots, and promised to respond to the report in full in six weeks. In a related development, the Environment Agency for England and Wales yesterday launched criminal prosecutions of the Milford Haven Port Authority and the Milford Haven harbour master for their roles in the accident. Meanwhile, environmental group Friends of the Earth maintained its threat of a private prosecution against the former UK transport ministry, which was merged with the environment ministry in June this year.

Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 171 890 3000.

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