Greenpeace boards single-hull tanker in Gibraltar

Feature story - 20 January, 2003
The cleanup of some 25,000 tonnes of oil from the sunken Prestige oil tanker continues along the coasts of Spain, France and Portugal. But single hull tankers are still a permanent presence in the region. Greenpeace activists boarded the single hull oil tanker Vemamagna in Algeciras Bay, Gibraltar today climbing the mast with banners reading "Oil Hazard" in English and Spanish.

Gibraltar authorities detain a Greenpeace inflatable following a Greenpeace protest against the single hulled oil tanker Vemamagna anchored in Algeciras Bay, Gibraltar today.

Juan Lopez de Uralde from Greenpeace says despite the sinking of the Prestige, European policy regarding the transport of hazardous substances has not changed substantially. "Another catastrophe can occur at any time and Algeciras Bay is literally a time bomb waiting to explode. We want an urgent and total ban on single-hull tankers and the establishment of a new regime of unlimited responsibility."

According to Spanish government data, in 2001 over 56,670 merchant ships crossed the Gibraltar Strait. Ten percent of all international maritime traffic crosses the Strait and around 5000 oil tankers travel the same route every year. That's about 10 to 15 oil tankers a day. Approximately 20 million tonnes of oil products are transported annually through the bay.

However Gibraltar authorities believe Greenpeace activists pose more of a threat than rusting oil tankers and have detained two inflatable boats Greenpeace activists were using when they began their protest. Onboard these boats were a total of 12 journalists and eight activists.

Gibraltar's complicity with the oil industry is unacceptable. Gibraltar is playing Russian roulette with the marine environment allowing high risk practices as those being carried out by the Vemamagna and by avoiding a ban on single-hulled vessels.

We want full and unlimited liability throughout the chain of responsibilities, including the owners, managers and operators of a vessel and of any charterers or owners of the cargo. Additionally, Greenpeace is demanding that the EU immediately ban the use of single hulled tankers and exclude ecologically sensitive areas from shipping routes.

The Vemamagna is a 22 year old single hull vessel belonging to the Vemaoil Company based in Gibraltar but is registered in Malta.