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October 11, 2002

Limburg: It was an attack
A statement from the French foreign ministry headquarters at the Quai d'Orsay, Paris, says that the first results of the inquiry by French, American and Yemeni investigators lead to the belief that the October 6 explosion on the French tanker Limburg was the result of an attack.

News agency reports say that evidence of the attack includes explosives residue and fiberglass particles believed to be the remnants of the small boatused in the attack.

Shipowners' organizations BIMCO and INTERTANKO have now both issued statements on the incident.

BIMCO says it is "deeply concerned by the recent revelations indicating that the explosion on board the supertanker Limburg was caused by an act of terrorism, the first attack on an innocent merchant vessel since the Achille Lauro incident in 1985." Its statement notes that the Limburg was owned by BIMCO members CMB and was en route to Yemen when it was apparently rammed by a motorboat packed with explosives in a way similar to the attack on the U,S, naval ship Cole at Aden on October 12, 2000.

"The Limburg incident," says BIMCO, "illustrates well the dire consequences created by acts of terrorism, placing the lives of seafarers in grave danger with fatal consequences, causing severe material damage and, not least, causing significant environmental harm. It also raises questions as to which, if any, of the maritime security initiatives now under development at the IMO and elsewhere could have helped to prevent such an attack."

BIMCO says it is now advising its members to liase with their hull and machinery underwriters and P&I Clubs, and to evaluate the vulnerability of their ships based on their trading patterns, in order to safeguard lives and property.

BIMCO regularly issues advice to its members on matters of maritime security, encompassing issues such as the prevention of drug smuggling on ships, stowaway boardings, piracy attacks (particularly off the Somali coast), and armed robbery against ships at ports and anchorages.

The INTERTANO statement says the Limburg incident makes it opportune to remind the public of the "essential, but generally invisible, role that tankers play to support our everyday lives and the dependence of many nations on the sea transportation of crude and oil products. The excellent safety record of tankers, the professionalism of their crews and the fact that safety and security are traditionally uppermost in the management of the cargo while under the custodianship of the tanker operator have been similarly stressed. It has also been appropriate to observe that tanker owners have continued to provide this public service in times of regional conflicts and heightened security concerns, and that if owners are prepared to offer their ships and the crews are prepared to man them it is only reasonable that they should expect the maximum support and assistance from the governments and national authorities in those countries which benefit from these trades. Additionally it has been emphasized that it is therefore especially important that, under such circumstances, shipping companies who carry this additional exposure should not be expected to also carry the burden of any unreasonable additional costs."

"During previous conflicts, such as the Iran/Iraq war and the Kuwait war," says INTERTANKO, "independently owned tankers kept the transportation of oil running throughout these crises. Many of these civilian ships were exposed to attacks by the war-faring parties and both ships and crews were lost."

"Now that we experience new threats to the tanker trades." continues the statement, "there is reason to discuss how the United Nations or national states could arrange protection for the ships trading in areas exposed to the risks of attack or sabotage."

"The world economy depends on the free trade of oil," concludes the statement. "Continued transportation of oil is dependent on protection against war-like actions against civilian tankers. It is up to the world to prepare to defend its independent tanker fleet and the crews which man the ships."

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