Global Phaseout of Older Single Hull Tankers Begins
LONDON, UK, April 7, 2005 (ENS) - To prevent oil spills in all oceans of the world, older single hull tankers carrying heavy fuel oil are now required to meet a new set of deadlines for phaseout or conversion to double hulls. Oil tankers transport some 1,800 million metric tons of crude oil around the world by sea, including 50 percent of U.S. oil imports.
Comparison of tanker age and accident statistics shows increasing accident rates for older ships. It has been internationally agreed that requiring the application of the double hull or equivalent design standards to existing single hull oil tankers when they reach a certain age will provide those tankers with a higher degree of protection against accidental oil pollution in the event of collision or stranding.
On Tuesday, amendments to the MARPOL Convention, adopted by the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee in December 2003, entered into force for all 130 countries that are MARPOL Parties.
This means that single hull oil tankers 23 years old and older must be phased out or converted to double hulls if they are of 20,000 tons deadweight and above and carry crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil or lubricating oil as cargo, and of 30,000 tons and above carrying other oils.
The rule applies only to tankers that do not comply with the requirements for protectively located segregated ballast tanks, commonly known as Pre-MARPOL tankers.
If single hull tankers do have protectively located segregated ballast tanks, they are known as MARPOL tankers, and they can be five years older before they must be phased out or add an additional hull.
According to figures produced by SSY Research, reported in "Tradewinds," there are 173 single hull tankers of over 200,000 tons in existence, out of a total supertanker fleet of 455 vessels.
There are still 14 tankers of pre-1980s vintage and 10 built between 1980 and 1984. After that the numbers increase, with 42 ships built in the period from 1985 to 1989.
As of April 5, smaller ships with single hulls cannot carry heavy grade oil, a new regulation that applies to vessels of 5,000 tons and above.
Warships, naval auxiliary ships and other government vessels are exempt from the phaseout.
But Greenpeace warns that the worldwide ban on single hulled oil tankers "threatens to dump thousands of toxic ships on Asian and Turkish beaches."
A Greenpeace analysis shows that over 2,000 such tankers will be removed from the water and scrapped within five years. More than 1,000 tankers are expected to be scrapped in 2005, a figure that the international environmental organization says "dwarfs previous estimates."
According to the analysis, 334 of the tankers to be scrapped are either owned by European companies or registered in Europe.
While Greenpeace says it welcomes the elimination of single hulled tankers, the organization says the European Union has failed to ensure the phaseout also includes environmentally and socially responsible procedures for breaking the vessels.
“The European Union successfully achieved the global accelerated phasing out of single hull oil tankers but did not provide measures for ensuring the safe and clean breaking of these ships," said Greenpeace campaigner Marietta Harjono. "The EU now needs to ensure proper follow up, so that the problem is not simply exported to vulnerable workers in developing world shipbreaking yards."
Workers in India, China and Turkey break up European vessels with no protection from explosions, asbestos or a cocktail of toxic chemicals contained in the ships.
To encourage the creation of enough ship recycling capacity to absorb all the older single hull tankers taken out of service, the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee has adopted a resolution recommending that that MARPOL member governments take steps to maintain adequate ship recycling facilities at a worldwide level and promote research and development programs to improve environment and safety level in ship recycling operations.
There is an exemption to the new double hull requirements, but only for MARPOL tankers with single hulls. They may be allowed to operate beyond their phaseout date, but not beyond the anniversary of the date of delivery of the ship in 2015 or when the ship reaches 25 years of age, whichever is earlier.
Any MARPOL Party can deny entry of single hull tankers operating under these exemptions into the ports or offshore terminals under its jurisdiction.
To ensure that these modifications are carried out, a Condition Assessment Scheme was adopted in 2001 along with the new phaseout schedule for single hull tankers. It applies to all single-hull tankers aged 15 years, or older.
The Condition Assessment Scheme requires enhanced and transparent verification of the reported structural condition of the ship and verification that the documentary and survey procedures have been properly carried out and completed.
Major oil spills have historically been the driving force behind double hull requirements for tankers. The MARPOL amendments introducing double hulls entered into force in July 1993 in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
The first acceleration of this phaseout schedule was adopted in response to the Erika oil spill off the coast of France.
On December 12, 1999, the 37,238 ton tanker Erika broke in two in heavy seas off the coast of Brittany, while carrying approximately 30,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil. Although the crew were saved, some 14,000 tons of oil were spilled and more than 100 miles of Atlantic coastline were polluted.
As a result of the Erika disaster, proposals were submitted to the Marine Environment Protection Committee to accelerate the phaseout of single hull tankers.
The Prestige tanker oil spill of 2002 off the Spanish coast led to calls for further changes to MARPOL that resulted in the accelerated phaseout schedule that took effect on Tuesday.
The International Maritime Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations which is responsible for measures to improve the safety and security of international shipping and to prevent marine pollution from ships.
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