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Oil disaster - who pays?

Cleaning up the mess from the Prestige oil spill will be expensive, but the fuel's owners won't be asked to pay Keystone

The cost of cleaning up the Prestige oil disaster will be met by the insurers of the ship's owners and a special fund managed by oil-importing countries.

This content was published on December 11, 2002 - 18:05

That's according to the International Maritime Organisation, which says the owners of the oil bear no legal responsibility.

The oil washing up on Spain's beaches won't cost Crown Resources and the cantonal banks of Vaud and Geneva - who co-financed the shipment - a penny. They have only to reckon with possible tighter controls on oil tankers, which presumably may increase the transport costs in future.

Their views on the matter, and on the issue of moral responsibility, are unclear since Crown has resolutely refused to comment and the banks are facing cash crunches which would sink them altogether, if they didn't enjoy a state guarantee.

In Zug, the possible damage to the reputation of the canton - as the home of Crown Resources - is causing some consternation.

Code of conduct

Hanspeter Uster, a Zug cantonal minister who is member of the Green Party, wants a code of conduct for oil traders.

Traders would have to agree to ship fuel only in double-hulled vessels and not to use flags of convenience. So far Uster's suggestion has met with silence, although the European Union is in the process of implementing the first measure.

"None of the traders have bothered to contact me," said the minister. "But I have received a lot of support from the population for my proposal."

In the local parliament, the Greens have called for the canton to hand over the tax income from Crown Resources and its partner Energy Trading to fishermen in Galicia, the region most affected by the oil spill.

"There's a good chance our motion will be accepted by parliament out our next session," said Zug Green Party parliamentarian, Josef Lang. "But it could be few months before the government comes with a concrete proposal.

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