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Emergency alert: Greenpeace oil action underway

Tallinn, Estonia, 29 November 2002.

Greenpeace activists today blocked the oil tanker Byzantio in the port of Tallinn, Estonia, preventing it from leaving with its cargo of 50,000 tonnes of oil. The Byzantio is chartered by the same company that contracted the ill-fated oil tanker Prestige that sank off the north-western coast of Spain earlier this month.

Greenpeace activists are chained to the mooring lines of the ship and inflatable boats are displaying banners with the word "Hazard!" stamped across them.

"The world has been able to see the unimaginable amount of damage to the environment that oil tankers such as this cause to the environment. It would be direct governmental negligence to allow one more hazardous ship to leave port," said Pernilla Svenberg of Greenpeace. "The Prestige catastrophe is clear proof of the threat ships like the Byzantio are for the environment. With the experience of the Prestige behind us, European governments must ban these ships from our seas. We can’t afford to wait 13 more years."

According to UN shipping regulations, single hulled oil tankers are still allowed to sail on all of the world’s oceans until 2015 when a total ban on these ships goes into effect.

The Maltese flagged Byzantio was set to sail across the Baltic and the North Seas following the same route as the Prestige on its way to Singapore. Recently, the Paris Memorandum of Understanding, one of the world’s leading port inspection authorities, placed Malta on safety "black list" for its failure to fulfil basic safety measures.

European ministers responsible for transportation, energy and telecommunications are scheduled to meet in Brussels on December 6 and maritime safety and environmental issues are expected to be high on the agenda. Denmark, the current seat of the EU Presidency, is expected to present several initiatives to tackle the issue of dangerous shipments. "This is a chance for European governments to stop these hazardous shipments," concluded Svenberg. "They shouldn’t waste it."

ENDS

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