Erika Captain Says Tight Budgets Overrode Safety

Monday, February 07, 2000
The captain of the tanker Erika, which sank off France's west coast in December causing a huge oil spill, said crews had to work to such tight budgets that safety standards could not always be met. "There are certain things that nobody dares to say, but the job has changed a lot, everything is going too fast, everything is dominated by money," the 36-year-old captain said. The Erika's crew was winched to safety when the vessel split apart and sank in stormy seas on December 12. The spill of around half its 25,000-ton cargo of fuel oil devastated 400 km (250 miles) of coastline, killed or maimed 300,000 sea birds and hurt fishing and tourism. The accident has since sparked widespread calls to tighten international maritime standards. Oil majors BP Amoco, Exxon-Mobil and TotalFina, which chartered the Erika, have already toughened rules on chartering older vessels. A preliminary French government report said a corroded bulkhead was probably the main cause of the breaking up of the Erika, calling into question the seaworthiness of the 25-year-old Maltese-registered vessel.

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