EU again fails to protect oceans

Press release - 6 December, 2002
Despite the Prestige disaster, the EU has failed to come up with strong enough measures on marine transportation.

A oil cleanup volunteer holds a Comoran covered in oil from the sunken Prestige oil tanker on the coast of Galicia, Spain.

Greenpeace today expressed disappointment at the outcome of today's EU Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Ministers' Meeting in Brussels, saying ministers failed to agree on strong measures to protect the world's oceans from the threat of hazardous and toxic shipments in substandard vessels.

While the EU agreed to ban single hulled vessels transporting heavy fuel from its ports, it is up to each EU member state to decide when the ban takes effect..

"The EU has failed to protect the marine environment," said Simon Caroll, of Greenpeace. "Stronger measures must be put in place immediately to include a ban on single hull vessels transporting all hazardous cargo, and to exclude them from ecologically sensitive marine areas. The whole system of marine transport needs to changed so that the needs of the environment are put before those of the shipping industry."

"Greenpeace is 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."

Earlier today, Greenpeace activists simulated an oil spill at EU Headquarters and using approximately 300 litres of oil waste and residue brought from the Prestige oil disaster. Activists dressed as oil-stained birds held signs for the ministers saying Act Now.

Greenpeace believes that the European Union is once again responding in crisis mode to an environmental disaster caused by a shipping accident involving thousands of tonnes of oil. The rules which were adopted following the Erika disaster were patently inadequate to prevent yet another accident-even if they had been fully implemented. The reality today is that the oil from the Prestige is washing up in increasing amounts on the shores of Spain, damaging the marine environment and destroying livelihoods of many who depend on the sea for their living.

"What the EU claims it is going to do is simply not good enough to prevent another disaster," said Simon Carroll of Greenpeace. "Again, we see how short-term economic interests prevail over the protection of the marine environment and the people who depend on it for their livelihood."

Greenpeace is now focussing its attention to the EU Summit to be held at the end of next week in Copenhagen. "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," added Carroll.

VVPR info: John Novis, Greenpeace Picture Editor, ++31 6 53 81 91 21Lucy Clayton, Greenpeace Video Producer, ++ 31 6 53 50 47 21