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October 15, 2002

IMO responds following Limburg incident
The International Maritime Organization says it is "following very closely" developments surrounding the incident on board the French tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen on Sunday, October 6, 2002.

IMO Secretary-General, William O'Neil, when addressing the 48th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee, reported on his immediate communication with the Governments of France and Yemen enquiring about the cause of the accident.

His concern was focused on any loss of life and pollution of the marine environment suffered as a result of the incident as well as whether the evidence available would lead to the conclusion that it was due to an act of terrorism. At the same time, he pledged IMO's assistance to the Government of Yemen irrespective of the cause.

The Government of Yemen, having thanked IMO for its preparedness to help, requested assistance to:

a) combat the pollution caused by oil spilled into the water; and

b) assess the damage resulting from that pollution and to assist the Yemeni authorities to prepare their claim.

This request was responded to immediately and two experts arrived at Mukalla last Saturday, 12 October, to assist the Yemeni authorities as requested.

In his appeal to parties concerned to expedite the finalization of the investigation report into the casualty, so that action could be taken on any lessons to be learnt without delay, O'Neil referred to information suggesting that the accident might have been the result of a terrorist attack. He added that, should this be the case, the matter would be of particular concern to IMO at a time when final preparations were being made to establish an adequate regulatory regime on maritime security to protect shipping against acts of terrorism.

Referring to the Diplomatic Conference scheduled for the coming December to adopt amendments to the SOLAS Convention and a new International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, O'Neil invited parties concerned to advise the Conference in light of the findings of the investigation into the casualty.

In the meantime, he advised Governments and the industry to take any sensible measures justified by the degree of risk in areas of operation of their ships, to increase awareness of the potential dangers so that their ships become extremely vigilant and alert to any security threat they may encounter or be suspicious of, be they in port or at offshore terminals or while underway.

While stressing the need for co-operation among all parties concerned, O'Neil advocated a sense of proportion in any action contemplated in the context of the Limburg incident.

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