French Officials Demand Stricter Maritime Regulations

Monday, December 20, 1999
French Environment Ministry Officials have demanded tougher maritime laws as thick fuel oil from a tanker that split up one week ago edges closer to the country's Atlantic coastline. For the fourth day in a row, strong winds prevented navy vessels from pumping up scattered slicks of oil in the sea south of the Brittany coast. Officials said that maritime traffic laws must be strengthened. "One cannot approve of a system that uses old tubs, underpaid sailors and minimizes controls," one official was quoted as saying. The 25-year-old tanker Erika, carrying 25,000 tons of fuel oil, broke in two last Sunday in heavy seas. The bow and stern both sank on Monday, and experts estimate that between 8,000 and 15,000 tons of oil have escaped from the ship's various holds. The 590-foot (180-m) Erika was registered in Malta and owned by Italy's Panship Management. It had been chartered by French energy giant TotalFina to take oil to southern Italy from France's northern coast.

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