Prestige sinking reignites marine safety debate

NGOs accuse EU states of failing to act quickly enough to raise maritime safety standards

The sinking of the Prestige oil tanker off the coast of Spain yesterday, with most of its 77,000 tonne cargo of fuel oil still on board, has sparked a new debate on the safety of Europe's seas. While EU governments have engaged in mutual recrimination, environmental groups have attacked both the EU and member states for failing to make oil shipping safer.

EU maritime safety rules were strengthened last year, in the aftermath of the 1999 Erika oil spill off the coast of France. However, the new rules will not come into force until next July (EED 07/12/01).

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