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Key dates


The Erika spill, from the accident to the court case.

8 December 1999

The Erika leaves Dunkirk (France) bound for Livorno (Italy) with a cargo of heavy fuel oil from Flanders refinery

11 December 1999

Distress call from the ship's captain, which is then cancelled

12 December 1999

  • New distress call with request for evacuation
  • Crew airlifted from vessel
  • Ship breaks up, stern part taken in tow
  • Bow section sinks off Penmarc'h (Brittany)
  • POLMAR Sea Plan activated by the Maritime Prefect for the Atlantic 

13 December 1999

  • Stern section sinks
  • European response vessels mobilised through the Bonn Agreement

22 December 1999

POLMAR Land Plan activated for Vendée and Charente-Maritime

23 December 1999

  • First arrivals of oil on the Finistère shoreline
  • POLMAR Land Plan activated for Loire-Atlantique 

24 December 1999

  • First arrivals on the Morbihan shoreline
  • POLMAR Land Plan activated for Finistère and Morbihan

26 December 1999

First arrivals on the Loire-Atlantique shoreline

27 December 1999

First arrivals on the Vendée shoreline

30 December 1999

Total becomes involved in response: Atlantic Coast Task Force set up

31 December 1999

  • First arrivals on the Charente-Maritime shoreline
  • First investigations of the wreck with ROVs

12 January 2000

300 million French Francs released to fund response

8 February 2000

French Prime Minister calls together the local councillors of areas affected by the oil spill to present the Government action plan

28 February 2000

Meeting of the CIADT (French interministerial committee on land planning and development) dedicated to the reinforcement of the oil spill response capacity during which it was decided that a scientific network would be set up to monitor the ecological and ecotoxicological consequences of the oil spill, jointly led by INERIS and IFREMER.

21 March 2000

Presentation of Erika I package by the European Commission

Early April 2000

Initial clean-up operations completed, final clean-up begins

5 June 2000

Wreck treatment operations begin

Late June 2000

Army and fire brigades begin to withdraw

September 2000

2,150 birds cleaned and rehabilitated

September 2000

Pumping of fuel from the wreck completed

Mid-September 2000

Withdrawal of army troops completed

6 December 2000

Presentation of Erika II package by the European Commission

6 November 2001

Symposium on initial results of national impact monitoring programmes

Summer 2002

Clean-up operations completed

22 July 2003

Erika I package enters into force

Late 2004

  • Waste treatment operations completed
  • Atlantic Coast Task Force dissolved

Early 2005

Reference work "Marées noires et environnement" directed by the Ministry of Ecology is published

December 2005

Presentation of Erika III package by the European Commission

12 February 2007

Legal proceedings begin

16 January 2008

Paris Criminal Court issues its verdict and finds Total guilty of pollution. The notion of ecological damage is recognised.

25 January 2008

Several parties appeal the decision

1st August 2008

Adoption of the law on environmental liability transposing the European Directive of 21 April 2004 into French law

10 March 2009

Adoption of Erika III package by European Parliament

5 October 2009

Appeal case begins at Paris Court of Appeal

30 March 2010

Paris Court of Appeal delivers its judgment and upholds the conviction of the classification society RINA, G. Savarese, A. Pollara and Total. It also confirms the ecological damage.

6 April 2010

Total announces that it plans to appeal the decision and in the following days the case is taken to the Supreme Court by: the shipowner (G. Savarese), the classification society (RINA), the manager (A. Pollara), Total, as well as many local authorities and parties claiming civil damages.

25 September 2012

The Supreme Court upheld all the previous convictions, putting an end to 13 years of legal proceedings.

Last update on 22/08/2019
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