Friday, April 08, 2005

Government - Greenpeace ‘truce’ over Ship Inspections

Holliday reiterates commitment on international law

A meeting between the minister for Trade and Industry Joe Holliday and Greenpeace International ended yesterday in what could be described as a truce – Government reassuring that it complies with the law and Greenpeace giving the assurances the benefit of the doubt, for now.

After meeting with Martin Besieux of Greenpeace and the Captain of the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise Mr Holliday told the Chronicle that the Government had made clear it is not prepared to talk to Greenpeace on the basis of threats issued by them. But he also told Greenpeace that they may carry out activity in Gibraltar, this is agreed in advance with the Government.

“Any illegal activity in Gibraltar waters by Greenpeace would result in expulsion,” said Mr Holliday adding that the allegation that Gibraltar does not comply with its international obligations in respect of port State control of shipping is “strongly refuted”.

“Not only is Gibraltar law compliant, it is also enforced and Government resources in this area have been strengthened over the years to meet standards which go beyond the minimum maritime obligations,” he said. “Government maritime policy can be summarised as aiming to achieve clean seas and safe ships.”

However the Greenpeace view remains that Gibraltar still needs to invest more in resources so that it can catch all offending vessels.

Whilst the Government says that it has ensured that there are no non-compliant single hulled tankers on the Gibraltar register it is the commitment it has made to ensure that any vessels that are due to become non-compliant are flagged out well in advance of international deadlines, that was well received by Greenpeace.

M Beseiux later said the meeting had been very fruitful for both sides and that Greenpeace had been provided with new information.

He suggested there had been compromise on both sides with Greenpeace detailing seven Category 1 single hull vessels that had visited in the past five weeks and action had not been taken.

Apart from accepting the commitment that vessels will be investigated Greenpeace said that they pointed out that vessels that are phased out then become defined as waste and can thus be inspected under Environmental laws.

M Beseiux says that he understand that the Government will be looking at this aspect and in response, although they still wanted to carry out their own approach to each vessel, Greenpeace have agreed to follow up their visit in the future to see what action is taken.

M Beseiux said he regretted that Greenpeace vessels had been stopped by a political decision but said that they had decided to defer this until later in the year.

Mr Hollliday maintained that the Government’s position that the Greenpeace inflatables could not be used as they would contravene ISPS Code security requirements. But Greenpeace say that this is not so and that they do conform with the security requirement.

“We will not hold an open day as our visit was not for propaganda but also to work and we have more work elsewhere.”

The Government meanwhile made clear it is prepared to play its part as a responsible member of the international community to ensure that old shipping is broken up in accordance with internationally agreed regulations and strategies.

Mr Holliday said that Greenpeace was advised that they should have given more advance warning of their intended visit to Gibraltar, and their proposed activity in the port of Gibraltar, so that the matter could have been considered properly by the authorities. “Just turning up on the doorstep is not the best way to address issues of concern, “ he said confirming also that he offered Greenpeace a berth for their ship at Coaling Island, for the purposes of holding an open day, but the offer was declined.

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