France warns UK cuts threaten Channel safety

7th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

British spending cuts pose a "major risk" to safety in the busy North Sea shipping route where Britain is to cut funding for a salvage boat run jointly with France, French officials warned on Friday.

They said Britain had decided not to renew funding for the Anglian Monarch, a rescue tugboat run jointly with France in the Channel, when the joint contract expires in September.

"The British are taking a very big risk," said Jean-Yves Besselat, MP for the Seine-Maritime coastal region, on France 3 television.

"It is the risk of a sea accident like the Erika but bigger," he said, referring to an oil tanker that sank in 1999, causing massive pollution in the Channel.

"This decision constitutes a major risk for boats passing through the strait of Calais," a narrow stretch of water between the French port and Dover in southern England, said a French coastguard official who asked not be named.

"It compromises safety in the whole of the zone," the coastguard told AFP by telephone. The narrow Channel is considered the busiest shipping lane in the world, used by up to 800 ships a day, the official said.

"The strait is in an international zone. The responsibility for safety must be shared by France and Britain," the coastguard official said. "That is the rule and Britain cannot get out of it."

© 2011 AFP

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