Greenpeace activists stop the single-hulled oil tanker 'Byzantio' in the port of Tallinn, Estonia, preventing it from leaving with its cargo of 50,000 tonnes of oil.
Upon learning of the ship's location and planned route,
Greenpeace scrambled to assemble an international team to stop the
ship within 48 hours. Hoping to keep the tanker from taking on oil,
the team raced against time to get equipment, inflatable boats, and
survival gear together for a possible extended conflict, with team
members assembling from offices across Europe. They arrived to find
the ship fully loaded with oil, 41 feet deep in the water, and with
its engines warming up for departure. They arrived in the nick of
The Byzantio is chartered by the same company that contracted
the ill-fated oil tanker Prestige that sank off the north-western
coast of Spain earlier this month. The French government has called
the ship a "floating dustbin" and demanded additional inspections
by the Estonian government. The Estonian inspectors found "no major
defects" according to press reports.
No MAJOR defects? That doesn't appear to have satisfied the
French government, who have ships on standby to escort any unsafe
tankers into French ports for additional inspections. Insanely,
ships like the Prestige and the Byzantio can pass safety
inspections and be deemed perfectly safe, due to the laxity and
loopholes of shipping regulations.
"The world has been able to see the unimaginable amount of
damage to the environment that oil tankers such as this cause to
the environment. It would be direct governmental negligence to
allow one more hazardous ship to leave port," said Pernilla
Svenberg of Greenpeace. "The Prestige catastrophe is clear proof of
the threat ships like the Byzantio are for the environment. With
the experience of the Prestige behind us, European governments must
ban these ships from our seas. We can't afford to wait 13 more
13 years is the UN's "accelerated" schedule for phasing out
single-hulled oil tankers.
Like many aging and unsafe oil tankers, the Byzantio is
registered under a flag of convenience - a place where regulations
are soft and inspectors are often willing to turn a blind eye to
irregularities. The Byzantio flies a Maltese flag. Recently, the
Paris Memorandum of Understanding, one of the world's leading port
inspection authorities, placed Malta on safety "black list" for its
failure to fulfil basic safety measures.
European ministers responsible for transportation, energy and
telecommunications are scheduled to meet in Brussels on December 6
and maritime safety and environmental issues are expected to be
high on the agenda. Denmark, the current seat of the EU Presidency,
is expected to present several initiatives to tackle the issue of
dangerous shipments. "This is a chance for European governments to
stop these hazardous shipments," concluded Svenberg. "They
shouldn't waste it."
Air disasters commonly lead to the grounding of similar planes
until safety checks and assurances can be made. Why should the
shipping industry be any different? The loss of life in the
Prestige disaster may not have been human, but it was devastating.
No unsafe tankers should be allowed to sail until the EU ministers
meet to review the regulations, tighten them up, and stop these
ships from sailing again.
And until Greenpeace is convinced that our elected officials are
going to make our seas safe from oil, we don't believe ships like
the Byzantio should be allowed to sail. 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.
Take action online!
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