Rust bucket oil tanker continues hazardous journey

Feature story - 1 December, 2002
The tanker left Estonia under the cover of darkness on Friday, but not before 20 Greenpeace activists braved the cold attempting to stop the Byzantio. 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. But this new hazard to the seas will not be allowed to pass quietly. More Greenpeace activists intercepted the ship as it passed the straits between Denmark and Germany.

Greenpeace activists take action against the single-hulled oil tanker 'Byzantio' on its way from Tallin with its cargo of 50,000 tonnes of oil. Greenpeace inflatables attemp to stop and enter the ship displayinga banner reading HAZARD.

Fourteen activists on board three inflatable boats sailed alongside the vessel displaying banners that read "Hazard" to highlight again that vessels of this type are threatening the health and environment of the world's oceans. Some banners were attached to the hull of the ship.

The Byzantio is a Maltese flagged ship that is transporting oil for the same Russian-owned company "Crown Resources" that owned the oil on the Prestige that broke up and sank off the northwest coast of Spain on November 19. Like the Prestige, the Byzantio is a 26-year-old single hull vessel carrying 50,000 tonnes of oil.

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. 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.

"It is inconceivable that with the scars of the Prestige still raw in people's memory, the Byzantio is being allowed to navigate these waters," said Pernilla Svenberg from Greenpeace. "This is like laughing in the face of danger. European governments must make tougher legislation for all transport vessels through European waters."

European ministers responsible for transportation, energy and telecommunications are scheduled to meet in Brussels on December 5 and 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.

We are demanding 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, we want the EU to implement an urgent phase-out of sub-standard vessels, especially old single-hull tankers and exclusion of ecologically sensitive areas from shipping routes.

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.

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.

Help us by making an urgent donation to our efforts to stop oil spills and move the world toward clean, renewable energy.