Official Journal of the European Union

CE 259/61

New Flame shipwreck


European Parliament resolution of 24 April 2008 on the New Flame shipwreck and its consequences in Algeciras Bay

(2009/C 259 E/10)

The European Parliament,

having regard to Articles 71, 80 and 251 of the EU Treaty,

having regard to its previous readings on the maritime packages and its resolutions on maritime safety,

having regard to its resolution of 12 July 2007 on a future maritime policy for the European Union: a European vision for the oceans and seas (1),

having regard to Rule 103(4) of its Rules of Procedure,


whereas one of the priorities of EU legislation is the maintenance of a safe and pollution-free environment for the oceans and seas, especially as regards the Mediterranean,


whereas on 12 August 2007 a collision occurred near the coast of Gibraltar between a double-hulled oil tanker and the bulk carrier New Flame resulted in the sinking of the latter,


whereas accidents of this kind do not have the same environmental impact as those between tankers, but still give rise to social concern,


whereas, as regards the New Flame, the Spanish and the UK authorities as well as the Government of Gibraltar have given the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) information about the accident,


whereas Spain has had the anti-pollution vessel Don India positioned in the bay since 13 August 2007,


whereas bunkering in coastal waters does not in itself constitute a breach of EU environmental law and could only give rise to pollution if it were handled in an unprofessional manner disregarding the protection of the environment or in bad sea conditions,


whereas bunkering activities are regulated by the respective national laws applicable in the area,


whereas the eventual splitting-up of the vessel could not only pollute the seabed and the sea but also damage nearby fishing grounds and tourism on the coasts,


whereas at present the New Flame, lying on the seabed and containing 42 000 tonnes of load and at least 27 000 tonnes of scrap metal, could affect water quality, adding to the concentration in the area, unknown to the public, of heavy metals of an uncertain nature, and whereas it is therefore difficult to determine the full environmental impact,


whereas no casualties have occurred and no major pollution has been detected following the collision between the two ships; whereas, however, environmental threats could still remain,


whereas in the vicinity of the Straits of Gibraltar there are areas protected by the Natura 2000 network, such as the site of Community importance ES 6120012, known as the Frente Litoral del Estrecho de Gibraltar, which is seriously affected every day by the bunkering undertaken therein,


whereas Parliament long ago adopted its amendments at first reading on the third maritime package, containing seven legislative proposals,

1.   Calls on the Commission to forward to Parliament all the information on the case of the New Flame provided by the competent national and regional authorities, especially that referring to the request for additional resources, such as anti-pollution vessels to be provided by the Community aid mechanism in the field of civil protection assistance interventions, including accidental marine pollution, established by Council Decision 2007/779/EC, Euratom of 8 November 2007 establishing a Community mechanism to facilitate reinforced cooperation in civil protection assistance interventions (2), which aims to place at the disposal of the Member States, when requested by the country affected by the wreck, anti-contamination ships operating under the aegis of the EMSA;

2.   Welcomes the participation of the Andalusian regional and local authorities on this subject, in accordance with Parliament's recommendations on the EU maritime policy for the participation of local and regional authorities;

3.   Takes note that the Government of Gibraltar, the UK and the Spanish authorities expressed their willingness to collaborate within the Forum of Dialogue on Gibraltar in the most effective way in order to manage the accident and its consequences for the maritime and coastal environment;

4.   Underlines the swiftness and efficiency of the EMSA in reacting to the request for assistance made by the Spanish authorities immediately after the accident; stresses that Parliament has constantly advocated increased operational and financial resources for the EMSA, and that more vessels will be available for assistance in the various maritime regions of the EU; calls on the Commission and the EMSA to give their full support to environmental protection in this threatened area, in line with the environmental objectives laid down in the relevant EU legislation and international instruments;

5.   Calls on the Commission, in its role as ‘guardian of the Treaties’, to verify whether the competent authorities complied correctly with their obligations under Articles 2, 3, 6, 10, 80(2), 174(1), 174(2) and 175(4) of the EU Treaty so as to avoid the catastrophe, and, if appropriate, to adopt the necessary legal measures that would stem from such an action;

6.   Encourages all efforts and measures that could be taken by the UK and Spanish authorities, the Government of Gibraltar, the port authorities of Algeciras and Gibraltar and all relevant actors in order to manage in the most responsible way all the activities carried out in the Bay;

7.   Stresses, following pollution the origin of which still needs to be clarified, that all relevant authorities managing the Bay and its coast and the operations to salvage the New Flame must remain extremely vigilant concerning potential opportunist and illegal emptying of fuel tanks and ballast waters;

8.   Underlines that the third maritime package, still at the first reading stage in the Council, on which Parliament adopted its position more than a year ago and in respect of which it is willing to move forward and conclude the seven legislative procedures, provides the EU with all necessary tools for the prevention of maritime incidents and the management of the consequences of such incidents, including in particular provisions for the monitoring of maritime traffic and the investigation of accidents; insists on the need to ensure efficient cooperation between neighbouring ports;

9.   Asks the Commission to call on the competent authorities to provide information concerning the content of the cargo and to indicate what the plans and time-schedules are for removal of the vessel from the Bay and for monitoring the risk of pollution which could stem from the cargo, and to forward such information to Parliament;

10.   Urges the Commission to call on those Member States which have not yet done so to ratify the 2001 International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage and to ensure enforcement of the EU legislation on this subject;

11.   Reiterates its call on the Commission to submit a proposal to Parliament and to the Council as soon as possible in order to ensure that bunker oil for engine fuel in new ships is stored in safer, double-hull tanks;

12.   Reiterates its request for an EU directive on improving the quality of maritime fuels; welcomes the recent agreement within the International Maritime Organization on the introduction of a proposal for legislation in this regard by 1 January 2010;

13.   Encourages the Commission to propose improvements to the legislation on the protection of environmentally sensitive cross-border marine areas, including stronger (satellite) surveillance and monitoring of ships;

14.   Suggests to the Commission that it intervene with the competent national and regional authorities with a view to reaching an agreement on a public performance protocol in the area of the Straits of Gibraltar and particularly in the Bay of Algeciras, similar to the existing bilateral and regional agreements concluded between coastal states, which would provide mutual assistance in the event of a maritime pollution incident;

15.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European Maritime Safety Agency, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the regional authorities concerned.

(1)  Texts Adopted, P6_TA(2007)0343.

(2)  OJ L 314, 1.12.2007, p. 9.