Association de citoyens qui défendent l'environnement maritime

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The 4th of February 2016

A Tug in the Bay of Biscay: a priority!

According to the Maritime Prefecture of the Atlantic, the salvage tug in the Bay of Biscay is a false debate and the bad weather has prevented to hitch the ship. Does the Maritime Prefecture spoke on behalf of the government?

Undoubtedly not on behalf of Mrs Ségolène Royal who in September 2011, right at the departure of the rescue tug from La Pallice, had met our Association “MOR GLAZ” and had asked Mrs Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet to reinstate a salvage tug to cover the Gulf of Biscay.

Neither on behalf of the Minister of Defense, M. Jean-Yves Le Drian who had requested in December 2011 to the Prime Minister François Fillon to reinstate a salvage tug, which could be based in Lorient. Neither on behalf of Mr. Alain VIDALIES, Junior Minister in charge of the Transport. In the margins of the Interministerial Commission of the Sea, which was held at Boulogne in 2015, one of his advisers asked to the association MOR GLAZ if we knew a French ship-owner able to build tugs with equal or greater traction to 270T to face the gigantic ships.

The Association “MOR GLAZ” is satisfied of the decision of the President of the Department of Charente Maritime, Dominique Bussereau, to mobilize the elected representatives of the “Poitou-Charentes” in order to reinstate a salvage tug quickly to cover the area Bay of Biscay. Independent maritime experts and the Association “Robin des Bois (Robin Hood)” are also involved.

Since 1978, the disaster of the “Amoco Cadiz”, France has developed a “Coastal protection” policy. Following the mobilization of elected representatives, coming from all tendencies and also several demonstrations (sometimes violent) in Brest and elsewhere with more than 100,000 people, a salvage tug was put in place in August 1978, “the Abeille Normandie”, at the disposal of the Maritime Prefecture of the Atlantic.

In September 1979, the assistance and salvage tug "Abeille Languedoc" has been based at Cherbourg, the “Abeille Flandre” at Brest, the “Abeille Provence” at Toulon. The tug “Abeille Normandie” is also here to replace these tugs when they are in dry dock. In 1979 a tug manned by 15 seafarers was chartered 11,500 Euros a day.

35 years later, the resources have become more efficient. In 2005, the private group “BOURBON” has invested 54 million Euros to build the “Abeille Liberté”, without any public funds (each one manned by 12 seafarers). They are chartered 12,300 € per day and the day charter rates have continued to decline: less than 10,000 € for the Abeilles Flandre and Languedoc. These ships are on alert 24 hours a day and 7 days a week and are ready to sail in 20 minutes. The lack of rescue resources does not come from an economic problem but from a political decision: lack of will, the maritime security is not a priority!

MOR GLAZ Association reminds that -and this is very important- when these tugs tow a ship, 50% of the funds received by the Group “Les Abeilles” are transferred to the French State. 21 disasters like the “Amoco Cadiz” have been avoided since 1978!

From 1991 to 1995, the chartering rate has been recovered by the number of towing (sometimes for abandoned ships). 80% of rescues were made during very bad weather - strong winds or storm - including without any external assistance (see the books of the Master Jean BULOT).

MOR GLAZ Association points out that if a tug had been based in the Bay of Biscay during the drift of "Modern Express" and if the official notice to stop the danger had been immediate, the tow cost for the owner would have covered the chartering cost of the tug for several months.


On behalf of MOR GLAZ Jean-Paul Hellequin, President