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UK ‘faces legal action’ over oil tanker

1 March 2004

GIBRALTAR- The European Commission has taken legal action against the UK government over an oil tanker which allegedly transferred fuel illegally in Gibraltar, it was claimed Monday.

Ecologists in Action has claimed the EC has begun proceedings against the UK for the activities the oil tanker ‘Vemaocean’  in the port of Gibraltar.

The tanker replaced a floating petrol station ‘Wilmington’ in December 2003, sparking criticism from environmental groups which claimed its activities were illegal.

Alfonso Sierra, member of Ecologists in Action in Campo de Gibraltar, Cádiz, said the organisation had filed 20 reports against the illegal transfer of fuel from this tanker, owned by Vemaoil, before knowing that the EC Energy and Transport Department had already begun proceedings against the UK for these “questionable” activities in the colony.

Sierra claimed EU Transport Commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, had begun proceedings in order to verify that UK authorities were following community norms regarding the use of twin hulls on ships transporting heavy hydrocarbons.

Currently sailing under the Liberian flag, Vemaocean, previously Genmar Ocean, is a 1985 Aframax tanker with a double bottom rather than twin hull.

The ecologists accuse Gibraltar’s Maritime Authorities of accepting steel plates welded on the port and starboard sides in order to insulate the keel, which has a double bottom, as a means of adapting the ship to the new European legislation.

The conservationists consider this a potential danger for the Bay of Algeciras, since the ship does not allegedly comply with current community environmental legislation.

For Ecologists in Action, Gibraltar has become a nest of petroleum pirates, accepting outdated ships with dubious origins that operate outside the law.

Officials at the EU Transport department were unavailable for comment.

The Gibraltar authorities deny any wrong-doing.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

                                             Subject: Spanish news