Byzantio tries to hide, but activists stop the 'floating dustbin' in Rotterdam

Feature story - 4 December, 2002
Why would the owners of a 210 metre oil tanker try to elude activists, mislead journalists and try to sneak into the port of Rotterdam? Do they have something to hide?

Activists deliever oil waste from the Prestige oil spill to Crown Resources, the owner of the oil that covered Spain's northern coast.

Over the last day reports and rumours have speculated the route of the single hulled oil tanker chartered by the same company responsible for the oil spill off the coast of Spain. Most accounts by the media quote the owners or the chartering company stating that it would go to Antwerp. That the oil tanker has been besieged by Greenpeace activists first in Estonia and then through the straights of Denmark and Germany. The company wanted to avoid further embarrassment.

But our activists have not been fooled by these misleading reports and have caught up with the tanker in the port of Rotterdam.

Activists approached from the open side of the ship, three activists are now chained to the mooring line, two are chained to the buoys. They brought with them a banner that is now hanging on the side - OIL HAZARD - and they are getting ready to the paint a message on the hull of the Byzantio.

The police have already arrived on the ground and a Greek representative of the owner of the ship has been intensively trying to convince our campaigner that the Byzantio is in top condition, the best ship and so on.

The 26 year old Byzantio is a single hulled vessel, one of hundreds worldwide. These ships pose a serious risk to the marine environment. The ship was chartered by the Russian-owned trading company 'Crown Resources' to transport 53,000 tonnes of oil between Tallinn and Rotterdam. Crown Resources is the same company that charted the Prestige oil tanker which recently broke up and sunk of the coast of Spain spilling thousands of tonnes of oil into the sea.

Activists in Switzerland are also protesting outside of Crown Resources bringing waste from the spill off Spain to their headquarters and telling the company to: Clean up your mess now!

How do we stop the ongoing threat of oil shipments?

European Union Ministers will meet tomorrow in Brussels to discuss measures to improve maritime safety to reduce the risk of accidents. But these measures may not be sufficient to prevent another disaster. The EU Commission has published a list of 66 vessels that have been classified as highly dangerous, ironically, neither the disastrous Prestige, nor the Byzantio appear on this list.

Politicians must wake up and realise that tackling this mess goes beyond mere suggestions. Now is the time for European governments to take action and stop these old rust buckets from causing more damage to the oceans. Now is the time for immediate implementation of effective safety measures.

We want to see 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. The EU must immediately ban the use of single hulled tankers and exclude ecologically sensitive areas from shipping routes.

But the only foolproof protection for our seas is to give up our addiction on fossil fuels, end the cycle of pollution and switch to clean, renewable energies such as solar and wind power.

The Byzantio has so far made it safely to Rotterdam, but where will it go next? And for how long with the rust buket tankers that follow it be safe?

There are currently two tankers in Tallinn, Estonia where the Byzantio loaded up last week. The 22-year-old, Express and 21-year-old, Burgas are flying flags of convenience like the Byzantio and have loaded the same dangerous cargo, 80,000 tonnes and 50,000 tonnes of heavy oil.

Another two are due to leave Baltic ports later this week from Tallinn and Klaipeda, in Lithuania.

If these tankers are bound for Asia than they will follow the same route as the Prestige, past the oil coated coast of northern Spain.

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.

Join the discussion of the spill in Spain.

Take action online!

Send a protest message to Crown Oil and demand that the EU tighten up regulations on old, dangerous oil tankers. Click here to keep other ships in port.

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