Posted 3/27/2003 1:46 PM
EU will ban single-hull tankers in response to Spanish spill

BRUSSELS (AP) European Union governments agreed Thursday to ban single-hull oil tankers carrying heavy fuel in an attempt to reduce the risk of spills like the one that befouled the coast of northwest Spain last year.

The ban will take effect by July, if it gains quick approval from the European Parliament. It will apply to all boats using EU ports and to vessels flying European flags around the world.

"This is a spectacular step forward ... which allows the full ban in EU waters of the most dangerous tankers," said EU Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio. "

Transport ministers from the 15 EU nations also agreed on a total ban on single-hulled tankers over 23 years old.

Prohibition of all single-hulled tankers whatever their age will be phased in by 2010. For the largest ships, the ban will start in 2005.

The restrictions are similar to those already adopted by the United States.

The EU will press the 162-nation International Maritime Organization to make the ban global when it meets July in London.

European nations moved to introduce tighter rules after the November sinking of the oil tanker Prestige off Spain's Atlantic coast. That wreck dumped millions of gallons of heavy crude oil into the sea, contaminating beaches from Portugal and to southwest France.

In December, EU governments agreed to ban single-hulled ships like the Prestige from carrying heavy crude, but that agreement was not legally binding and application has been patchy.

The new agreement, if approved by the European Parliament, would be binding on the 15 EU nations.

At a request from Greece, an exception will be made for small tankers, up to 5,000 tons, which are used for transporting fuel to Greek islands. Their operators will have until 2008 to replace the single-hulled boats.

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