Lead medal for the European Union

10 Aug 2012

MSC Flaminia
Press release n° 2

The container ship MSC Flaminia that suffered an accident on 14th July 2012 is located 450 km to the west of Brest. She is carrying 2,876 containers and thousands of tonnes of propulsion fuel. The towing convoy is awaiting a possible destination other than the depths of the Atlantic. Will the records for wandering the high seas held by the Kharg V and the Castor be beaten?

The Kharg V, an Iranian oil tanker that fell into difficulties on 19th December 1989, had been refused entry to the waters of Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Senegal and Cape Verde. It was not until 6th February 1990 that transfer of the cargo on board Kharg V was completed, on the high seas off Sierra Leone, on to another Iranian tanker.

The Castor, an oil tanker sailing under the Cypriot flag suffered, whilst in the Mediterranean, a crack to her bridge on 31st December 2000. In search of refuge, she was successively rejected by Morocco, Spain, Algeria, Gibraltar, Tunisia and Malta. She was finally accepted in the port of Piraeus, Greece on 14th February 2001. Following this long sequence of failure to assist a ship in distress, the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation had lamented the absence of international co-operation, management protocol and structure to handle ships in distress.

Ten years after Castor, following the sinking of the Erika and in spite of the provisions on “places of refuge” in force, the Member States of the European Union are still unable to offer the owner of the MSC Flaminia any solutions to get the vessel to safety, to provide post-accident expertise, transfer the fuel, unload the containers, or pump and treat the polluted water used to extinguish the fire. This is deeply pathetic.

The MSC Flaminia sails under the German flag. The indifference that surrounds her after nearly a month is an encouragement to all European ship-owners to register their vessels in Vanuatu or Mongolia.

When it comes to deal with larger and larger container ships carrying 18,000 boxes, European ports are engaged in fierce competition with one another. When it comes to receiving a container ship in difficulties, they are all united in their rejection.


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