Single Hull Oil Tankers Banned Worldwide from 2005
LONDON, UK, December 5, 2003 (ENS) - Single hull oil tankers will be phased out worldwide by 2010, five years earlier than planned, the United Nations agency responsible for maritime pollution decided Thursday. Single hull tankers are more likely than double hull vessels to rupture and break up, spilling oil into the sea.
A meeting of the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee in London agreed to accelerate the phaseout deadline, thereby amending the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as the MARPOL Convention.
Following months of intense negotiations, the decision to amend the MARPOL Convention was taken during the 50th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee. Under MARPOL rules, the new standards will come into force 16 months after their adoption on April 5, 2005.
A spokesman for the IMO said the accelerated deadline shows the organization can react quickly and expeditiously to situations such as the one caused by the Prestige oil tanker, which caused an environmentally damaging oil spill when it sank off Spain's northwestern coast last year.
Single hull oil tankers were banned from European ports as of October 21, 2003.
Loyola de Palacio, Commission vice president and the commissioner in charge of energy and transport, said, “I am delighted that the European proposals for safety, security and environmental standards will now be established and applied globally."
Today at the Transport Council in Brussels, de Palacio urged the 10 countries that will join the EU next to immediately the ban on single hull tankers, ahead of the date set for European Union enlargement May 1, 2004.
The IMO committee has also adopted the European ban on the transport of heavy grades of oil in single hull tankers. Heavy fuel oil, heavy crude, used oil and bitumen and tar will have to be carried in double hull vessels after April 5, 2005.
The new international requirements covering the carriage of heavy grade oil as cargo will apply from that date to larger tankers, and to tankers of under 5,000 tons from 2008. The IMO committee is inviting all MARPOL Parties to apply the new heavy oil rules as soon as possible.
The Commission will continue its efforts to ensure that the countries closest to the EU, in particular Russia and the Mediterranean partners, follow the IMO recommendation on the early ban for the transport of heavy grades of oil in single hull tankers, de Palacio said.
In addition, the IMO committee imposed compulsory condition assessment schemes (CAS) for tankers over 15 years of age, also in accordance with European measures.
The CAS is an enhanced additional inspection scheme developed to detect structural weaknesses in single hull tankers. Oil tankers, even those built recently, which do not meet the test requirements, may be refused entry into EU ports or permission to fly the flag of an EU country.
The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO) said today the organization "welcomes" international accord at IMO on amendments to MARPOL.
But permitting a port state to deny entry to certain vessels permitted to trade by international regulation and by their flag state is likely to lead to "considerable confusion in practice," INTERTANKO warned, as operators, charterers, brokers, insurers and the rest of the tanker industry attempt to ascertain which ships can trade with which cargoes to which ports.
The IMO celebrated the 50th meeting of its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) with a special commemorative session Thursday. MEPC chairmen past and present attended the session and spoke about the achievements of the committee through the years. The session also marked the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the 1973 MARPOL Convention.
In his address to the session, IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil spoke of the success of the MEPC in performing its function as the unique international agency with regulatory responsibility for controlling ship generated pollution.
He said, "Within the global dynamic process of environmental governance under the United Nations, IMO has managed to keep all environmental issues surrounding ships within the authority of this organization.
"If MEPC had not been established at IMO," O'Neil said, "I am sure that environmental issues concerning shipping would have been debated in various fora and, as a result, regulations concerning the control of pollution from ships would probably have been fragmented among various international legal instruments."
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