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France, Spain Impose Tough Controls on Ships - 2002-11-27

Spain and France have imposed new controls on vessels in their waters that do not meet strict security standards. The two countries are acting after an oil tanker sank last week off the coast of Spain.

France and Spain have implemented strict security standards on all oil tankers passing within 320 kilometers of their coastlines. The decision was made Tuesday evening at a meeting between French President Jacques Chirac and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria in the city of Malaga in southern Spain.

From now on, all single-hulled tankers more than 15-years-old that are carrying toxic materials or heavy oil products must submit themselves to inspection when passing through French and Spanish territorial waters. In addition, all such ships are now required to present precise information on their cargos, destinations, owners, insurers and operators. If their safety standards are found deficient, they will be expelled.

The two nations said their decision was based on the U.N. maritime law. Mr. Aznar and Mr. Chirac also vowed to push for strict European-wide controls over tankers at the EU summit in Copenhagen in mid December. They also want the European Union to advance the deadline for banning all single-hulled tankers from EU waters. As of now, the tankers will not be banned until 2015.

Meanwhile, in Spain's northwest region of Galicia, government workers and volunteers continue efforts to clean up thousands of tons of thick fuel oil from the oil tanker Prestige.

The Prestige began leaking oil two weeks ago after a storm cracked its hull. When the vessel sank last week, more oil spilled into the waters off Galicia. The area's beaches are now coated with oil and its fishing industry has been paralyzed.