Grande America : 20 years after the Erika, history repeats itself!

Surfrider Europe will lodge a formal complaint against the owner and captain of the Italian container ship, Grande America.This legal pursuit aims to bring justice for the ocean in this particular accident, but case-by-case actions have failed to prevent catastrophes of this kind from occurring again. A total revision of maritime transport regulations on a European and international level is mandatory, and Surfrider Europe is leading this charge by launching a public petition to protect our coasts and oceans!  

Grande Americamounting devastation 

On March 12, Italy’s Grande America hybrid hull (vehicle and container ship) sank more than 300km west of the French coast. The 214-meter-long ship was on fire since Sunday, March 10, but bad weather conditions (strong sea and gusts of 90 to 100km/h) made emergency operations difficult and it took nearly 2 days for the 27 people on board to be evacuated.   

Built in 1997, Grande America was carrying 2200 tons of heavy fuel oil, 365 containers –  45 listed as carrying dangerous goods (100 tons of hydrochloric acid and 70 tons of sulfuric acid) – and 2000 vehicles. In 2010 the vessel had been identified for a series of technical deficiencies and has since been targeted for several technical problems, including one relating to fire standards.  

Le lundi 11 Avril 2019 au large des cotes Bretonne. Le 10 mars 2019, le Centre Régional Opérationnel de Surveillance et de Sauvetage (CROSS) d'Etel est informé par le Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) de Rome de la situation à bord du navire italien « Grande America ». Le navire hybride roulier et porte-conteneurs (ConRo) «Grande America » a déclaré un incendie à bord, il se trouve à 142 nautiques au sud ouest du Finistère. L’équipage a était évacué par la Frégate britannique HMS « Argyll ». L'Amiral Lozier Jean-Louis, préfet maritime de la zone Atlantique, ordonne au Remorqueur d'Assistance et de Sauvetage (RAIS) Abeille Bourbon de rallier le navire. L'amiral décide d'envoyer l’Équipe d’Évaluation et d'Intervention (EEI) a bord du RAIS Abeille Bourbon afin d'évaluer la situation du navire. La Frégate Multi-Missions (FREMM) Aquitaine a appareillé lundi 10 avril au matin pour rejoindre le bâtiments et apporter son soutien logistique a cette opération.

On the afternoon of Thursday, March 14, two slicks of oil pollution were identified: one measuring 13 km by 7 km, and a second measuring 9 km by 7 km, said Riaz Akhoune, spokesperson for the Atlantic Maritime Prefecture (Cnews – 14 March 2019).  

The French government has deployed significant anti-pollution measures and has also charged the shipowner with the financial costs of the accident. The European Maritime Safety Agency will provide support to both France and Spain during the crisis.  

Surfrider Foundation Europe and maritime transport, a legal battle

Surfrider Foundation Europe has made the fight against pollution at sea its vocation for the past 29 years. Committed to the protection of the marine environment, the NGO has developed expertise in the field of maritime transport, particularly on the issue of pollution by container ships.  

Surfrider Europe’s legal action against the ship’s owner and captain will take shape as a civil case initiated by the prosecutor’s office to ensure that polluters are condemned to the level of environmental damage generated for the ocean, its biodiversity, and the coastline.  

Surfrider Europe launches petition to improve regulation of international shipping  

Today Surfrider Europe is asking for your support and participation! Sign the petition to express to public authorities, national and international governments, world maritime authorities and also commercial shipowners and professionals of the maritime sector that we will no longer accept the event of such environmental disasters and that exemplary sanctions must be taken.  

We ask for:  

  • Strengthened international regulation of maritime transport related to the loss of containers 
  • A gradual shift away from the use of heavy fuel oil for the propulsion of ships in favor of alternative energies like LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas). 
  • Increased transparency on the loss of containers at sea and the introduction of a loss reporting system. (Since 1994, Surfrider has cataloged and traced more than 16,000 containers lost at sea of which barely 2% could be recovered)
  • Implementation of regular checks on the quality of ships and prohibiting the navigation of obsolete vessels

 Surfrider Europe will present the petition to representatives of the IMO (International Maritime Organization) at the next meeting to be held in May.  

Now more than ever, your participation is needed to support the actions of Surfrider Europe! With each new signature, our chance of creating a significant change in legislation is strengthened. Please take a moment to protect our marine ecosystems from shipping disasters!   

Sign the petition