Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Erica Oil Slick disaster

Delivered in Plenary 18th January 2000

I would like to than Mrs. Grossetête and her colleagues for bringing this motion before Parliament.  The environmental disaster of the sinking of the Erika off Brittany and the spillage of 10,000 tonnes of oil has been widely reported in the British media.  Although Britain and France have had their differences recently, I can assure you that there is a considerable sympathy in my country for all those affected.

TV pictures of the damage done to your coastline and wildlife, in particular birds and the already dwindling fish stocks, have brought back memories of similar British disasters, such as the Torrey Canyon in 1967, and have prompted many British volunteers to help.

I salute these joint efforts to repair the damage.  This is clearly a problem for all EU coastlines which will require imaginative solutions.  Instead of allowing the costs of these disasters to fall on the communities most affected and insurance markets such as Lloyds of London, we must develop new technologies to retrieve from the sea much more than 10% of the lost oil.  There is currently little financial incentive for this when the insurance market picks up the tab.  Ultimately, the polluter must pay.

In addition we must build on the Council directive dealing with enforcement of international standards for ship safety and pollution prevention by ensuring that the inspection goal of 25% of ships calling at EU ports is met and that a high standard of inspection is delivered.  Moreover, although I am not opposed to shipowners registering their vessels in their country of choice, I believe there is a need for stricter application of international regulations.  Rather than banning flags of convenience, which would violate the right of every sovereign state to have a merchant fleet, under the 1995 EU directive on port state control, national maritime authorities must impose more effective sanctions on flag states which fail to carry out their international treaty obligations.  I sincerely hope that, particularly during the French presidency later this year, the Commission and the Council will look carefully at all these options, and I heartily commend this resolution to Parliament.