The tanker owners' organization Intertanko, said on Thursday it is ready to discuss proposals by the European Commission to keep ships in port during storms - a move that some fear will disrupt oil supply
"It is not unreasonable to explore this idea," an Intertanko official said, "but it is a complicated matter and needs careful consideration."
The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency estimates that last year about 380 million barrels of crude sailed through the English Channel.
Intertanko points out that neither the French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot nor the EU Transport Minister Loyola de Palacio have yet specified what exactly they mean by extreme weather conditions. Nor have they said what types of ship or cargo they expect to hold back during storms.
The British Meteorological Office says that during an average winter in the western English Channel, winds exceed gale force eight for 15 percent of the time. In the eastern Channel this figure falls to eight percent.
The Issues of tanker safety have been on the European Commission's agenda since the tanker Erika broke in two in a storm off the coast of Brittany last December, releasing a slick of fuel oil that damaged wildlife, fish stocks and tourism.
The recent loss in a Channel storm of the chemical carrier Ievoli Sun has strengthened the Commission's resolve to draw up new tanker legislation.
The storm-ban will be discussed when the European Council of Transport Ministers meets on December 22.