French report says corrosion weakened the tanker Erika

PARIS�A year after tanker Erika sank off Brittany, France, and polluted shorelines with oil, the French Bureau of Investigation on Accidents has released a 300-page report that concluded corrosion allowed the vessel to break up in heavy seas.

The bureau reviewed data from the Italian classification society Rina as well as subsea pictures and fragments of the wreck. The report said parts of the ship were 30-50% corroded.

The bureau concluded the tanker's central panels, which were poorly repaired, ruptured in in heavy seas causing the heavy fuel oil cargo to escape into one of the ballast tanks. That tank had a corroded support that failed, and a resulting chain reaction caused the tanker to split in two.

The French government intends to use the information to persuade the International Maritime Organization to toughen tanker inspection rules.

The European Commission already has approved a package of reforms to improve maritime safety (OGJ Online, Dec. 7, 2000).

The French report also urged greater cooperation between classification societies, chartering companies, and oil companies in trading information about vessels.

Georges Tourret, manager of the Bureau of Investigation on Accidents, said the number of entities involved in maritime transportation impedes transparency, and thus safety.

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