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Estonian Oil Tanker Inspected at France's Request - 2002-11-28

Estonian officials say they have finished inspecting an aging oil tanker, and have found no major violations. The tanker is similar to one that sank last week off the coast of Spain, spilling thousands of tons of fuel oil into the water.

The French put pressure on Estonia to inspect the Byzantio, which is about to take on cargo in an Estonian port, because its expected route will take it near the coast of Brittany.

It will be carrying 50,000 metric tons of fuel oil. It is owned by the same company as the Prestige, the tanker that sank off the northwest coast of Spain earlier this month, spilling fuel oil. The oil polluted Spanish beaches and fisheries, and threatened beaches in southwest France.

The French media have described the Byzantio, an aging Estonian-registered single-hulled tanker, as a "floating dump."

This week, France and Spain agreed on tougher regulation of ships carrying dangerous cargoes, including close inspection of any single-hulled oil tanker more than 15-years-old. They will ask other European Union countries to impose similar regulations at a summit next month.

The impact of the Prestige spill is still being felt. A French submarine is en route to the site of the wreck to determine whether the fuel oil left in the ship has gelled in the low water temperatures or is still leaking.