November 27, 2002

Spain, France target ships for EEZ expulsion

From today, France and Spain will start enforcing enhanced controls on tankers entering the waters of their Exclusive Economic Zones. The announcement was made yesterday by Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar and French President jacques Chirac at the conclusion of a Franco-Spanish summit meeting in Malaga, Spain.

At a joint press conference after the meeting, President Aznar noted that the summit had been dominated by the issue of the catastrophe resulting from the Prestige sinking. He recalled that he had already written the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission and European Union heads of state proposing seven measures that should be adopted urgently to enhance maritime safety. As a result of that initiative, he said, moves were underway to establish the European Maritime Safety Agency and a European oil spill compensation fund, to revise the calendar for the phase in of double hulls, to improve the inspection of vessels, to reinforce mechanisms for the control of maritime traffic and to "suppress territories free from controls that can become paradises." Also underway was "elaboration of proposals on matters of international maritime law."

President Aznar said he had gotten EC agreement to these measures at a meeting last Sunday with EC President Romano Prodi. The measures had been identified as falling into three categories: those the Commission can adopt directly, those that depend on the willingness of Member States and those that Member States must work to put in placethrough international organizations.

"Spain and France," said President Aznar, "wanted to take a step ahead to adopt measures in our respective exclusive economic zones today."

"We thus have decided," he continued, "that, starting from tomorrow, ships more than fifteen years old, that have a single hull, that transport fuel, tar, or bitumen and that are not equipped with means that allow control of the level and the pressure of hydrocarbons, will be considered to constitute a threat to our coasts."

There would be a "very clear reinforcement of controls" This could lead to expulsion of ships from the two countries' EEZ's, if they were thought to constitute a danger.

Authorities will be required, at a minimum, to furnish all information necessary about ships in the targeted category, including details of the cargo, the destination, documents relating to the flag, detailed information on all the operators and all the operations which can affect the transport in question.

In case of doubt, an inspection will take place. If it is considered to continue to present a risk, it will be expelled from the EEZ of France and Spain. President Aznar said the measures were based on article 56 of the Convention of the United Nations relating to the law of the sea.

France's President Jacques Chirac said France unreservedly supported President Aznar's proposals.

From November 27, he empasized "all vessels having doubtful characteristics--single hulls, over 15 years old, carrying heavy fuel or tar, a danger to the ecosystem--will be verified." If they fail the check, they will be excluded from the 200 mile EEZ. And, noted President Chirac, we will propose at Copenhagen, the extension of this measureme to all those European nations that want to join us."

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