Staff Reporter
THE United Nations plans to hold a meeting in Sicily in November to decide on a ban on single hull oil tankers in the Mediterranean. Such a resolution would have to be backed by all the member states and the European Union. The meeting will be attended by representatives of all the countries of the Mediterranean basin, with the exception of the Federation of Serbia and Montenegro, and in it, the UN, through its Environment Programme for the Mediterranean will make effective the decision to ban single hull vessels, although the resolution will have to be ratified at a later date. The UN measures will not be confined to applying the ban, which has also been decided in the European Union following the Prestige oil spill catastrophe in Galicia (although its application will be in the long term) but will also force the owners of tankers which transport crude oil to undersign insurance policies if they want to sail in the Mediterranean. The UN is also planning to set up a control centre in the accesses to the Mediterranean, at the Straights of Gibraltar, the Black Sea and the Suez Canal. This was revealed in Palma by Humberto Da Cruz, former administrator of the UN Environment Programme for the Mediterranean, who continues to collaborate in the plan. The need for the measure is the oil pipe from Asia, Russia and Ucraine to the Adriatic, which is due to come into operation over the next few months and will lead to an increase in oil tankers in the Mediterranean. Tunisia, which has a growing tourist industry, has expressed concern about the situation.
The Mediterranean narrows between the coasts of Tunisia and Sicily, and an oil spill in this area would have fatal consequences for the coasts of both the North African country and Italy. Da Costa said that the Prestige sailed in the Mediterranean on three occasions before its accident in Galicia and the Exxon Valdez had also been here after its accident in the United States. The Mediterranean countries will hold a preparatory meeting in Athens in June, prior to the November reunion in Sicily. Renpec, based in Malta, is in charge of managing the new protocol of the UN's Barcelona convention on prevention and fight against transport accidents at sea. Da Costa said that the Barcelona convention was an important step towards establishing an accident plan but was insufficient for a case as serious as the Prestige.


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