French Government, TotalFina Targeted In Erika Protest

Monday, April 03, 2000
Thousands of protesters from western France marched through Paris on April 1 to demand tighter shipping laws in the wake of the Erika oil tanker spill, which devastated parts of their region. The march was called by action groups from western France, along with local politicians and environmentalists. Police estimated 2,000 people attended.

Oil giant TotalFina, which chartered the Erika, was targeted by protesters in two separate incidents before the march. Earlier on Saturday, activists dumped sand and oil in front of what they believed was the home of TotalFina boss, Thierry Desmarest. According to police, they left the scene upon realizing that they had the wrong address. The previous night, a rack of gas bottles was set alight on the forecourt of a TotalFina petrol station in northern France. Local police said there was no serious damage.

The French government's handling of the Erika disaster and of shipping regulations in general were also in the firing line. Protesters say that France has no effective maritime law, and therefore no structure that will prevent future accidents.

In the wake of Erika, the government promised to push for stricter rules on shipping at European and international levels and has pledged to pay compensation, although it has been criticized for not moving swiftly enough on pay-outs.

TotalFina has meanwhile agreed with the government to pay for pumping out up to 10,000 tons of oil which still remains in Erika's holds.

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