Commission wants tougher measures for polluting ships

BRUSSELS – The European Commission yesterday demanded that EU members accelerate the implementation of measures designed to protect the European seas from environmental damage of the kind sustained after the sinking of the Greek-owned tanker Prestige off Spain’s northwestern coast. The Commission also proposed new measures to safeguard the environment and punish delinquent individuals and corporations. The Commission also published an «indicative blacklist» of ships, most of them Turkish, that it considers dangerous. These ships would already have been banned from European ports if EU members had already implemented the regulation on the retirement of older, single-hull tankers. When this directive was agreed, pressure from shipping companies had led EU members to decide that the single-hull tankers were to be retired between 2003 and 2026. The blacklist contains 66 ships, of which 26 fly the Turkish flag. There are no Greek-registered ships, although many of those flying under flags of convenience are Greek-owned. The list includes 12 ships registered in St Vincent and the Grenadines and nine registered in Cambodia; the other 19 are flying the flags of 10 other countries. The EU cannot immediately deny passage to these ships, but the Commission is trying to pressure EU governments to agree to an accelerated timetable for the implementation of the directive. Commission Vice President Loyola de Palacio, who is in charge of transport and energy issues, said yesterday she will ask the 15 EU members, at next week’s Copenhagen summit, to ban the transport of heavy fuel oil by single-hull tankers with immediate effect. The Prestige was carrying heavy fuel oil. De Palacio also said she will bring forward the timetables for the setup of the European Shipping Safety Agency and the SafeSeaNet satellite system that will monitor ships and their cargo in European seas. She will also ask members to extend liability and minimum fines for pollution.

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