On December 12 1999 the Maltese oil tanker Erica sunk in the Bay of Biscay outside the French coast of Brittany. The vessel had broken in two spilling an amount close to 19800 tones of heavy fuel oil. Additionally 6400 tones remained in the bow section of the sunken vessel and approximately 4800 tones in the stern section. Even though all crew members were rescued, this event would inevitably turn out to a huge disaster. Most of all because of the environmental consequences of the oil spill. In this paper I will first of all stress out the effects on the environment caused by the oil spill. Then, the regulations that were applied to the incident under consideration will be analyzed. Moreover I will point out the problems which arise from the incident. Finally I will evaluate measures taken with the aim of avoiding any similar future incidents.
The tragic event of the tanker vessel Erika had a tremendous impact in the environment. As shown in the appendix, the catastrophe in the waters, the coasts and of course the sea life from the oil spill was huge. Yet, this wasn’t the only effect that this incident caused. The economic consequences were enormous affecting the fishing and the tourist sector for many years. Also the costs for cleaning up the waters and coasts were very high. As you can imagine, the damage made by the Erika oil spill remains one of the biggest environmental disasters of recent years. (http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/ausnewma19&div=6&id=&page= Regulations applied
The Erika oil spill moved the publics concern regarding the transportation of goods at sea. At that time it was a fact that a high percentage of vessels were old and not well maintained. That was also because the European rules on maritime safety were not as strict as they should have been. The already existing rules should be reinforced. The reaction of the European commission to the report of the Erika accident was very quick and decisive. The first thing they did, three months after the oil spill, was to adopt a series of proposals regarding the maritime safety of the European coastlines. Then, in December 2000, a second set of proposals with rules and regulations was launched. Finally, in 2005 the commission adopted more measures that were part of the third Erika package. These three set of rules were named Erika I package, Erika II package and Erika III accordingly and will be described further on. All packages were a response to the Erika accident and their aim was to set more strict rules regarding the protection of the environment and the compensation of the oil spill – victims. Erica I package:
The main goal of the first Erika package was to improve, quality wise, the controls of vessels in ports which up until that time had proven to be inadequate. The quality controls would become more strict and thorough. If a vessel, subject to a control, was found to be of lower standards, than the ones set by the port state control, then it would be obliged to go through stringent annual inspections. The inspections would be more sufficient examining the vessel for deficiencies and elements that could be of any threat for the safety of the crew members and the environment. Also, some other factors may attract more inspections for a vessel. The fact that a vessel is old (more than approximately 15 years), or flies a flag of convenience, or possibly has testimonies from its own workers for deficiencies inside the vessel will be subject to more inspections. In the table bellow we can see the number of detentions related with the ship’s age. We can see that as vessels ages, more detentions are being reported. (www.classnk.or)
In the next table the number of ships being inspected and detained in the years 1991- 1999 is depicted. Bellow you will notice the difference in inspections in the post Erika incident period. The number of...