Tanker destination unclear after Greenpeace protest
LONDON - The destination of an ageing oil tanker, Byzantio, which environmentalists failed to prevent leaving an Estonian port was unclear this week after Dutch port authorities said it was no longer bound for Rotterdam.
\"The Byzantio will not pay a visit to Rotterdam,\" a spokesman for the Port of Rotterdam told Reuters. \"If it\'s coming to Rotterdam it will have to announce 24 hours in advance and we haven\'t heard anything.\"
The Byzantio, like the Prestige which sank last month in the Atlantic spewing some of its 77,000-tonne cargo of toxic fuel oil on Spanish beaches, was chartered by Swiss-based Russian oil trader Crown Resources.
Aegean Shipping Management, Greek managers of the 26-year-old ship carrying 53,000 tonnes of fuel oil much like the toxic oil that is washing up on Spanish coasts, said Crown had not passed on its latest intentions for the vessel.
\"It\'s under instructions from the charterer, they have asked us to wait for instructions. Rotterdam is on hold. The tanker is passing the Danish coast at the moment,\" said Gerry Ventouris, Aegean\'s shipping manager.
The ship was originally bound for Rotterdam but has an option to go as far as Gibraltar, at the mouth of the Mediterranean.
On Friday, about 20 activists in dinghies from environmental pressure group Greenpeace surrounded the tanker in Tallin, its loading port, but the ship still managed to set sail on a journey they say might result in a repeat of the Prestige oil spill.
Earlier this month, the tanker Prestige broke up and sank in the Atlantic, spewing some of its 77,000-tonne cargo of toxic fuel oil on Spanish beaches. Another monster oil slick began washing up the country\'s northwest coastline this week.
According to Lloyds Marine Intelligence Unit, the Byzantio is Greek-owned, flies a Maltese flag and was detained in Ireland for failing a port inspection earlier this year.
But the ship\'s manager said the tanker had been certified by ship classification society Det Norske Veritas as being CAP 1 (Condition Assessment Programme level 1), the highest level of seaworthiness.
\"Wherever the ship goes to eventually, we will try to organise an inspection with the relevant authorities as well as the French and Spaniards, maybe even the media,\" said Ventouris.
In an interview with Reuters on Sunday, the European Union Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio called for an immediate ban on transportation of environmentally dangerous heavy fuels by old, single-hulled tankers.
\"We must reconsider the actual rules in maritime law, which are based on principles that were applicable to the conditions of the 19th century,\" de Palacio said.
\"Today we transport dangerous products, new materials that didn\'t exist then and in huge volumes that weren\'t possible earlier...The magnitude of risks has exploded,\" she said.
Story by Raj Rajendran
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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