"Poor maintenance" behind Erika oil spill

Official French investigation into 1999 tanker sinking finds excessive corrosion, inadequate welding

The oil tanker "Erika," which broke in two and sank off the coast of Brittany a year ago, resembled "a patchwork of layers of metal of different thickness" according to the final report of an official French accident inquiry. An inspector from the Italian classification society Rina had expressed concern about the condition of the ship just 20 days before it sank, and asked for another inspection in January.

According to the report, a defect in an internal bulkhead caused by lack of maintenance was the initial cause of the sinking (ENDS Daily 7 January). Over half the ship's cargo of 37,000 tonnes of heavy oil was released, contaminating the Atlantic seaboard of France and killing an estimated 50,000 birds.

The report says that analysis of the accident confirms the need for new maritime regulations, including more frequent inspections, better implementation of rules as well as a modernisation of the oil tanker fleet.

The accident has already prompted EU action, with two separate "packets" of post-Erika legislative proposals now on the table from the European Commission (ENDS Daily 22 March) (ENDS Daily 6 December).

Follow Up:
French transport ministry, tel: +33 1 40 81 21 22, press release, and investigation bureau final report.

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