Tanker owners’ representatives last week called on the European Commission to speed up the designation of ports of refuge for distressed merchant vessels. The call was made at the assembly in Athens of the Hellenic Forum of Intertanko, an international association lobbying for the interests of tanker owners. The deadline for EU member states to submit relevant proposals expired on February 28, but the Commission has not made an announcement. Participants, who included Intertanko’s managing director Peter Swift and representatives of 40 tanker companies, expressed concern at the increasing number of instances of politicians baiting the tanker industry following the sinking of the tanker Prestige off the coast of Spain last November and the subsequent ecological disaster resulting from the spilling of 77,000 tons of crude oil into the sea. Speakers criticized the adoption of piecemeal measures by individual EU member states or bodies as not compatible with the law of the sea and said these should enjoy the approval of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Criticism was also directed against the mishandling of the Prestige incident by Spanish authorities, when the tanker’s Greek captain, Apostolos Mangouras, was said to be desperately asking to be allowed to sail into a port of refuge in order to repair damages and prevent the disaster. Other contributors expressed concern that a war in Iraq will automatically recast issues of security from terrorist attacks and push up insurance premiums. Hellenic Forum elected Nikos Fistes, of Ceres Hellenic Shipholdings Ltd, as new president. Intertanko officials, including Swift, Fistes and the Forum’s communication officer, John Damilatis, of the Cyclades Maritime Corporation, also discussed issues separately with Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis. «We had the opportunity to discuss all issues with a man of considerable experience in the sector, in charge of the largest merchant marine fleet in the EU. His positions, which carry particular weight, find us in agreement and we have reason to believe we will soon see results,» said Swift. The resolutions adopted will be approved by Intertanko’s annual general meeting in Washington DC next month.