SNP MEP Ian Hudghton says Member State governments must step up the pace to phase out single hull oil tankers such as the Prestige and Braer, infamous for the environmental damage they inflicted on the coasts of Galicia and Scotland.

Mr Hudghton's plea comes after members of the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly for single hull tankers to be phased out by 2010, five years earlier than proposed by the Commission.

The accelerated phasing out of these vessels (in the Piecyk report A5-0144/2003) was agreed in Strasbourg this morning, just months after the tanker, Prestige, foundered off the Galician coast of Spain. When news of the Galician disaster broke, Mr Hudghton expressed his anger that European Governments had allowed another disaster to occur by failing to phase out single hull tankers. He indicated his disbelief that no lessons had apparently been learned from the Braer disaster off Shetland in 1993 and accused Governments of putting business before Europe's coastal communities.

Welcoming MEP support for forcing the pace on tanker safety, Mr Hudghton said:

"Coastal communities the length and breadth of Europe will welcome this news. The report seeks to get these single hull tankers out of our waters and I am particularly pleased that MEPs are looking to cut the transitional period by five years.

"In Scotland we are bounded by some of the most treacherous seaways of Europe and are sadly no strangers to the environmental tragedy which can ensue when an oil tanker sheds its cargo at sea. I know that a good many Shetlanders, haunted by memories of the 1993 Braer disaster, felt deeply for Galicians whose livelihood and environment was blighted by the Prestige disaster last year. I also know of many who, like myself, were bewildered and very angry as to why such a disaster could happen again ten years on.

"The bitter lesson our coastal communities have learned is that single hull tankers can and do wreak havoc and will do so again unless action is taken. It is for this reason that Parliament hopes to reach a swift agreement with the Council. The ball is now well and truly with the UK, Spanish and other member state Governments. They must afford this legislation the same priority which we in the European Parliament believe it deserves."

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