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EU 'Blacklists'  Faulty Transport Ships - 2002-12-03

The European Union has published a blacklist of 66 ships it says do not comply with maritime safety rules, and it wants them banned from EU ports. The European Union is seeking to prevent incidents like the one last month that spilled thousands of tons of fuel oil onto Spain's northwest coast.

The European Commission, the EU executive body, is calling for a ban on the transport of heavy fuel oil in single-hulled tankers like the Prestige, the vessel responsible for the disaster in Spain.

EU Transportation Commissioner Loyola de Palacio told reporters through an interpreter that, if maritime safety rules drawn up in 1999, after a similar oil spill of the coast of France, are not applied vigorously, there will be more such catastrophes. "There are other vessels with the same features that are out there navigating, and we need to put a stop to these time bombs that are circulating and navigating off our coastline," she said.

Ms. de Palacio said the 66 vessels the European Union has blacklisted are mostly single-hulled ships. She said they are too old and too unsafe to transport such cargoes as fuel oil or chemical products on the high seas.

Twenty-six of the ships fly the Turkish flag. Twelve others are registered in the Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and another nine fly the Cambodian flag. The remaining vessels are registered in 10 other countries.

Ms. de Palacio wants the 15 EU governments to adopt the 1999 maritime safety rules and to increase inspections of all ships entering their ports. Her proposal also suggests that they introduce strict penalties for maritime polluters, including fines for ship owners and criminal charges for captains and crews.

EU Transportation Ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels soon, and Ms. de Palacio said the time for them to act on her recommendations is now. "I should like to urge ministers when they get together this week to adopt the regulation so as to prohibit entry into European ports of any vessels that do not have double hulls. We need maximum safety at sea for the transport of such toxic products as heavy fuel," she said.

Last year, the European Union approved legislation giving its member states the right to ban vessels considered a threat to human life or the environment. But many EU governments have not yet adopted the measure.