France Takes Steps Toward Safer Ships

Friday, February 11, 2000
Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot supported a French industry charter to tighten oil tanker safety aimed at making oil spills like the recent Erika disaster a thing of the past. Gayssot said a pact signed by French oil companies, shipowners and charterers showed they were impatient to move immediately to improve safety standards rather than wait for international regulations to be tightened. Signatures on the charter, which followed five hours of negotiations, include officials from TotalFina, Elf Aquitaine, BP Amoco France, Royal Dutch/Shell France, Esso France, ship classification firm Bureau Veritas and petroleum industries federation UFIP. The charter seeks to increase and improve checks to give early warning of potential problems The three-page charter bans single-hull tankers from 2008, only allows vessels over 15 years old to be used if they have recently undergone rigorous checks and outlaws "flags of convenience" which can be used to skirt a country's regulations for those of a slacker shipping authority. A government report into the Erika, which spilled half its 25,000-ton cargo of viscous fuel oil belonging to charterer TotalFina, also blamed a structural failure.

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