At a conference commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Prestige sinking, SAR member organisation the Surfrider Foundation has called on industry and legislators to ensure that our marine and coastal environments are fully protected against maritime impacts.

The event, that was also organised by Surfrider, took the opportunity to review gaps and discrepancies in existing maritime legislation at the regional and global scale. In a report published by the group, it was found that although improvements in legislation have taken place over recent years it is still the case that further safeguards are needed.

Surfrider also used the event to call for the adoption of stronger legislation that resulted from the Erika disaster. In this they are calling on the EU to put in place measures to deter against ‘flags of convenience’ – a strategy employed by some ship owners to avoid stringent safety rules.

The French based NGO are also calling for new legislation to address issues such as the opening of new Arctic sea routes – an emerging issue that exposes sensitive Arctic ecosystems to the possibility of a major oil spill.

Since 2008 Surfider has worked to bring shipping companies responsible for oil spills to justice, with more than 18 shippers now being brought before the courts. The majority of these cases have resulted in heavy sentences with fines totaling approximately 7 million euros.

Until the Erika disaster in 1999 and three years later the sinking of the Prestige, European maritime legislation was limited. In response to these disasters, packages of legislation known as Erika I, II, and III were adopted in Europe to tackle shipping pollution.


An internal report from the Danish Ministry of Defense has revealed that Denmark’s two largest pollution control vessels could only be used to tackle minor oil spills, as they lack equipment to protect crews from the dangerous fumes emanating from fresh crude oil spills.

A captain of one of the pollution control vessels who recently resigned from his position told Danish press that Denmark was essentially incapable of responding to a major oil spill and would be reliant on its neighboring countries in the event of a spill.

To read Surfrider’s full report

To read the story on Danish oil spill response (subscription only)

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