At the site of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Greenpeace activists display a banner reading Oil Hazard EU Clean up your act, referring to the now famous Prestige oil tanker disaster in Spain.
Princess Pia was on route from Spain to Klaipeda and only 43
metres from the breakwater when making a turn, the ship went out of
control for an unknown reason and ran aground reported the port's
harbourmaster. The weather conditions were fair with poor
The Princess Pia is registered to Panama, a country well known
for offering flags of convenience which allows ships to profit from
less restrictive regulations. It is a tanker with a double bottom
and has already been involved in two accidents, one being a
collision in La Plata, Argentina where it spilled two tonnes of
The authorities had no success earlier attempting to tow the
ship off the bottom and have said they will unload some of the fuel
today in order to lift the ship out of the shallow water.
The fate of the Princess Pia and the surrounding ecology is
still unknown, but the Prestige which continues to blacken Spain's
northern coast offers a glimpse of the risks involved with such
The Prestige oil spill has already coated 900 kilometres of
Spain's northern coast in a thick oil sludge. Approximately 9000
tonnes have already leaked from the sunken ship which continues to
leak as much as 125 tonnes of oil a day through a number of holes
in the hull. The head of the scientific committee monitoring the
Prestige says the ship will continue to leak for at least another
five months up to four years before it is empty.
The spill has devastated wildlife in the region and the fishing
industry along the northern coast has been closed because of the
pollution. And oil continues to wash up on the shores everyday.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar says they've made every
effort humanly possible to confront a tragedy and a catastrophe
they've never known in Spain. He says it was a tragedy no country
could ever be prepared for.
But is this true?
It isn't the first devastating oil spill. Not long ago the Erika
spilled more than 10 million litres of oil when it broke in two
during rough weather off the north-west coast of France in 1999.
The European Union responded to the Erika crisis adopting rules
inadequate to prevent another accident, and they have never even
been fully implemented.
But when the Prestige started leaking oil not far from the
Spanish coast, Smit, the international salvage company towing the
Prestige, asked to bring the tanker into a harbour which would have
made recovery operations easier. President Aznar said no take it
out to sea, where it broke up and now lies 3600 metres deep
President Aznar admits now he made some mistakes and Justice
Minister José María Michavila has announced legal proceedings
against the owners, operators and captain of the sunken oil tanker.
But the European Union continues to make mistakes rejecting strict
regulations that would ensure disasters like these never happen
Last week EU transport, telecommunications and energy ministers
meeting in Brussels failed to agree on strong measures to protect
the world's oceans from the threat of hazardous and toxic shipments
in substandard vessels. They agreed to ban single hulled vessels
transporting heavy fuel from its ports, but it is up to each EU
member state to decide when the ban takes effect. And the ban does
not apply to single hull vessels transporting all hazardous cargo,
and does not exclude the vessels from ecologically sensitive marine
But the EU Heads of State have the power to stop any other
disaster from occurring. They must radically improve what is
currently on the table or they will be directly responsible for the
future disasters that are sure to come.
Today heads of EU states will meet in Copenhagen to discuss
expansion of the union. Some heads of state are determined not to
let the issue of the Prestige die. And while expansion will happen
over several years and regulations will take time to implement but
the Prestige will continue to leak and the affects of more oil
spills could affect all of Europe for years to come. It is time for
the EU to lead the way setting an example of strict regulations
that will protect the marine environment.
Help us by taking action now
to support this action. Demand that the European Union tighten
up the loopholes and flag of convenience laws that allow deadly
cargoes to sail past our fragile coasts legally. Demand an end to
the tragedy of oil spills.
the discussion of the spill in Spain.
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tighten up regulations on old, dangerous oil tankers. Click here to keep other ships in
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