BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Commission yesterday proposed a directive that would make marine pollution by ships a criminal offense. The Commission said in a statement, «Sanctions will be applicable to any person – including the master, the owner, the operator and the charterer of a ship and to the classification society – who has been found to have caused or contributed to illegal pollution intentionally or by means of gross negligence.» «The penalties may, in the most serious cases, include jail sentences,» it added. EU Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said the penalties had to be as heavy as a jail sentence in order to be sufficiently dissuasive. However, the proposal did not detail what specific penalties could be imposed, leaving that up to individual EU member states to decide. European justice and interior ministers urged the European Union to adopt tougher measures against marine polluters following the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker on November 19 off the coast of Spain. De Palacio met with International Maritime Organization General Secretary William O’Neill yesterday and later said in a joint statement «that the opportunity should be seized, as soon as possible, for the IMO to further enhance the prevention of pollution from tankers at the worldwide level.» The statement said the EU would propose measures to the IMO to revise regulations on the phasing out of single-hull tankers and to prohibit the transport of so-called dirty oils by single-hull tankers. Shortly after the Prestige tanker sank off northwest Spain, de Palacio vowed to put forward a law that would introduce new maritime safety rules and ban all single-hulled tankers older than 15 years from European Union waters by 2010. But at a meeting of EU transport ministers in December there was little agreement among the 15 member states on what new safety measures should be adopted. Current EU president Greece, which has the EU’s largest merchant fleet, said last month the proposed new measures needed to be studied more carefully before they are adopted.