Oil tankers off Unesco World Heritage Coast: Erika disaster waiting to happen?


The French Appeal Courts have ruled that oil company Total is guilty but not responsible for the oil spillage that wrecked the Coast of Western France in 1999. Why? Because the boat owners are responsible, not the oil company.

The Erika disaster happened eleven years ago and Total will probably go to the High Court. Total’s press release points out they’ve spent millions on cleaning the coast. I just remember the images of birds and seaside covered in black goo. Other similar disasters have happened since.

I really don’t care who is responsible. What I do care about is not only the beautiful coast on my doorstep but the rest of the seas and coasts.

I’ve always found it odd that there seems to be tankers on the horizon along the Jurassic Coast going nowhere in particular. This is a coast of international interest, Unesco listed, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, partly owned by the National Trust. Does that count for nothing?

I’m sure the boat owners would say that these boats are perfectly safe which by boat standards they may well be. I don’t want to get into the reasons why they are there. Waiting for oil prices to go up?

The point is, if they are going from A to B fine, I still buy petrol for my car. If they are transporting a substance that is known to be harmful to the surroundings they travel in, then surely they should not be allowed to spend any more time than they have to. Trawlers have already been banned in parts of the bay. If it is acceptable to prevent local people to earn a living for the good of the wider community, then surely the same can be applied to companies whose activities put an area at high risk of losing a large part of its livelihood. Not to mention the rare wildlife or the ecological implications.

According to an article in the Western Morning News (11/03/2010) the government is aware of the situation but there are no statutory restrictions on the number of ships that can be in an area at any one time. Again, I don’t care which government is in power, this is an international matter. But one that needs to be dealt with.

In the meanwhile, let’s hope nothing happens. Let’s hope indeed that 2012 don’t have a new Olympic event due to Sailing being cancelled: “Coast Cleaning”.

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One thought on “Oil tankers off Unesco World Heritage Coast: Erika disaster waiting to happen?

  1. Weird, it seems that whilst I was writing this the UK government was announcing the creation of the biggest marine reserve in the world in the Chagos islands (Indian Ocean). So they can get together internationally to preserve the seas. Let’s hope they do it again soon.

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