Association de citoyens qui défendent l'environnement maritime


Meeting held 9.30am Friday 3rd March in "Hotel Restaurant des Gens de Mer", 44 quai de la Douane, Brest.

Object: A hearing of MOR GLAZ Association members by the Department Council Inspection Service for the Environment and Sustainable Development. It was chaired by Mr. Jean-Marc BERTHET, Policy Officer who was accompanied by Mr. Rouchdy KBAIER Inspector-General of Administration for Sustainable Development and Mr. Luc VEILLE Inspector-General for Maritme Affairs, concerning the Danish shipwrecks of MAERSK SEARCHER and SHIPPER in the Celtic sea.

Reference: Letter of engagement from Ms Ségolène Royal, minister for the Environment and the Sea, and Secretary of State for Transport.

Summary of the comments by those MOR GLAZ Association members present

de gauche à droite: Michel GLEMAREC..Jean-Paul HELLEQUIN...Bernard LE BIHAN


Bernard Le Bihan - MOR GLAZ Association member -

- 1st Point: The Notion of intelligence or information, which is for the different State services in charge of foreign affairs, embassies and others having a thorough knowledge of vessel types (merchant-naval-fishing and others) and their use within different nations.

Where the different hulls ready for demolition are moored, must be indentified, particularly in Northern Europe. We know that ship deconstruction is not a priority in European ports and many ships are sent to foreign ports, where there is little or no respect for environmental measures.

On this basis, on a French, European, even international level, the creation on a ship database available to all administrations is becoming an absolute priority ; A special environmental database which includes for each vessel, the type and quantity of fuel together with other toxic products (eg: cleaning detergent etc. ...)

Maritime transport needs increased vigilance and the forementioned shipwrecks show once again the absence of reliable information about the type of fuel in the ship's bunkers.

- 2nd Point: France has an organisation for monitoring maritime traffic in the Channel and Atlantic comprising four Regional Centres for Surveillance Operations, Salvage and Rescue (CROSS) Gris Nez - Jobourg - Corsen and Etel. I would refer that maritime towage is not a simple operation and requires particular attention from the surveillance operators.

Nevertheless, I was surprised that he towing vessel MAERSK BATTLER could continue its course without hindrance, to Turkey. The press announcement by the Brest maritime prefecture dated 22nd December 2016 stated that the CROSS Etel, received the VHF call from the MAERSK BATTLER master while off the Sein Island shoals. This announcement also mentioned that it was the CROSS Corsen which took responsability for the co-ordination of this operation.

I also observe that between the time when the event was reported at 1.55am 22nd December 2016 and the MAERSK SHIPPER sinking, more than four and a half hours passed. Sending a naval helicopter to the area would perhaps have permitted to have a clearer picture of the situation and to take the necessary steps to avoid the MAERSK SHIPPER supply ship sinking.

When confronted in future with such an important event, the orders from the CROSS (Regional Centres for Surveillance, Salvage and Rescue) must be clear and I hope that, from now on, they will systematically derout the vessel concerned to the nearest port for questioning and identification of the master and crew by the maritime authorities.

- 3rd Point: In face of this maritime incident, I request that close coupled towing be forbidden in French and European territorial waters. The presence of crew on board the towed vessels should be made compulsory. I also want both supply vessels refloated and taken to the nearest port, that is Brest. In a fishing zone frequented by numerous trawlers from Le Guilvinec and elsewhere, the risk of catching nets on these shipwrecks cannot be discounted.

- 4th Point: This incident at sea happened outside the limits of the Natural Marine Park Iroise. However, I will make it clear that due to prevailing winds and currents, the danger of pollution cannot be excluded in a protected marine area under the Oslo-Paris Convention (OSPAR). A large part of the area included within the perimeter has also been classified under the directives of fauna-flora habitat (Natura 2000 directive) as well as of the UNESCO biosphere reserve.

I also want to note the ship Peter Siff which sank on 15th November 1979 in the entrance to Lampaul Bay (Ushant Island) with 349 tonnes of heavy oil. Thirty eight years after the shipwreck, sporadic leaks of hydrocarbons are still observed in the Natural Marine Park Iroise.

Bernard Le Bihan MOR GLAZ Association member Michel GLEMAREC MOR GLAZ Association Vice President.


Intervention de Michel GLEMAREC Vice Président de l'association MOR GLAZ

The tip of Brittany and the ocean waters which reach its coast have been subjected to relentless agression due to maritme transport. One only has to remember that the Torrey Canyon accident happened exactly 50 years ago. The accidents are diverse, they occur during various seasons, the products are also different and it is difficult to anticipate on future consequences. The lighter grades of oil on the surface destroy fish and shellfish eggs and larvae...the heavier grades are longer lasting and highly toxic (carcinogenic) and can inflict harm on the reproduction of biological ressources. This can happen over a long period of time.

Brittany and the State have done a lot since the first events, separate shipping lanes, legislation, legal penalties, creating the Iroise Natural Marine Park, after Armorique Regional Natural Park, Zones Natura 2000, Natural Zone of Interest for Ecology, Flora and Fauna.... all within territorial waters. Nevertheless, everything which leaks from sunken wrecks will sooner or later come to the surface or be washed towards the shore. In view of the important acivity linked to the exploitation of natural ressources, being subjected to such ecological aggression can be greatly amplified economically.

Michel GLEMAREC Honorary University Professor (Biologic Oceanography) MOR GLAZ Association Vice Presedent, Witness during the Chicargo Trial in defense of the coastal communities affected by Amoco Cadiz. Editor for the Handbook of Coastal Habitat (European Directive Habitats-Natura 2000)...



Jean-Paul HELLEQUIN MOR GLAZ Association President

Rapid presentation of the MOR GLAZ association and its 300 public members including the Masters of high seas and port tugs, experts in the maritime world. MOR GLAZ Association claims to bring some insights on this shipwreck and more generally on the task of towage and the carelessness that prevailed concerning this convoy. The association can also provide its analysis about Embarked Passive Safety, a cause it has been defending for many years, its analysis of the facts and of the consequences on the marine environment.

I am in complete agreement with what has been said previously by Bernard and Michel. I have been a seaman for 38 years, 11 years in deep sea fishing and 27 years aboard ocean-going tugs, I have participated in more than 100 towing and salvage operations with my fellow seamen on deck, and I have been embarked on board the ABEILLE FLANDRE in the Iroise sea under the command of Jean BULOT (who is an association member). With that experience, I can tell you, that the towing of both hulls MAERSK SEARCHER and SHIPPER was practically doomed to failure.

Towing both hulls close coupled alongside each other was "a regretable error" from an experienced shipowner. These two hulls towed by a supply type ship which was also due for demolition in Turkey, was an economy which will tarnish the reputation of the MAERSK Group.

During high seas towage of this type, in which I have participated, in the Mediterranean sea, during 1977 and 1978 to tow from Piraeus to Barcelona for demolition old disaffected ships, certain precautions were taken, (every 3 hours inspection by the tugs crew of the towing lines during bad weather, more regular inspections, with a crew members embarked on the towed vessel, if necessary). These rules, these obligations must be reinstated, reimposed before departure by the relevant Port Authorities, but also, by insurers and others authorising the convoy departure. The rules must be scrupulously respected by those who carry-out this type of towage. Towage on the high seas is a specialist profession, which cannot be done approximately, this business is highly skilled and can only be done by professionals. (apparently not the case this time)

The way these two hulls MAERSK SEARCHER and SHIPPER were towed so unprofessionally that it made the towing maritme community snigger in disbelief. It was also incredible to have these ships destined for demolition, towed by a supply ship due for demolition too.

The world's primary shipowner behaved like an amateur, we question this way of working, this lack of respect towards professional towage companies.

Everything said by Bernard and Michel is a consequence of this amateurism. During building, all ships should be equipped with JLMD ECOLOGIC pumping system which allows the fluid on board a sunken ship to be retrieved and bunkers cleaned (Embarked Passive Safety). Other major shipowners in the world as well as the French CMA CGM, LD ARMATEURS and some others make the effort " to rely on prevention by respect for the environment in case of accident or shipwreck"

In order to avoid these convoys, demolition of disaffected ships must be done as close as possible, in Northern Europe whenever possible. Towing ships moored close coupled alongside each other must be forbidden.

For the MOR GLAZ association, both these huls should be refloated; monitoring by the MAERSK Group for three years is not sufficient. Strict regulation must be imposed so that this negligence cannot happen again, all those concerned with these shipwrecks must be made accountable for their actions.

Jean-Paul HELLEQUIN MOR GLAZ association President

Translation by TJ and ML Davies