January 3, 2003

Chirac targets "hooligans of the seas"
French President Jacques Chirac today made plain that France intends to continue pressing for a tough new maritime safety regime. As oil from the Prestige spill reached French beaches and with a tanker loaded with kerosene hitting the submerged car carrier Tricolor in the Channel, President Chirac issued a statement that noted that he had instructed the Minister of Justice to pursue penal sanctions against "those responsible" in the Prestige incident and "their accomplices."

CHIRACChirac declared that the captains, the owners and the charterers of "garbage can ships" must be pursued and must be "sanctioned penally in an exemplary way" as must the classification societies and insurers involved and companies managing flags of convenience.

Chirac noted that he had talks yesterday with European Commission president Romano Prodi asking him to accelerate implementation of the decisions on maritime safety reached at December's meeting in Copenhagen of the European Council.

Chirac said catastrophes such as the Prestige spill were not a matter of fate, but were the result of "uncontrolled human actions." France and Europe would not let businessmen who were "hooligans of the seas" benefit cynically from the current system's lack of transparency.

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