Officials Fear Environmental Repercussion From Sunken Tanker

Tuesday, December 14, 1999
A giant oil slick from the sunken tanker Erika drifted and widened off the northwestern French coast on Dec. 14, and officials worry that changing winds could push it towards land. A spokesman for maritime authorities said the slick from the broken up tanker Erika, estimated at 9,000 to 10,000 tons of viscous fuel oil, was extending as it absorbed seawater. Officials insisted that ecological disaster cannot be ruled out on the Brittany coast, where the Amoco Cadiz spilled over one million barrels of oil in 1978. The oil slick was some 25 nautical miles south off the tourist island of Belle-Ile, itself about 16 nautical miles south of Brittany's Finistere Peninsula, and drifting eastwards at .6 mph. The slick formed when the Maltese-registered tanker, carrying some 25,000 tons of fuel oil, broke in two off Brittany in stormy seas on Dec. 12. The two parts sank, and oil continued to escape from the submerged holds 24 hours later. Steamship Mutual is the insurer for the tanker Erika, and the club's general liability limit on oil pollution risk is $500 million. The limit for pollution risk for Erika's owners would be between $9.5 and $11.5 million, assuming France was the only country potentially at risk from oil pollution, a spokesman for the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC) said. The IOPC Funds liability would be up to $170.4 million.

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