EU calls for further restrictions on tankers

The European Commission is proposing to bring forward the 2015 ban on single hull oil tankers to ensure those that are currently carrying heavy fuel oil are banished from European waters. The proposal will be considered at the next European Council in Copenhagen on 12 December.

The Commission is also urging Member States to speed up their schedule of safety measures to prevent further disasters such as the recent sinking of the Prestige (see related story). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has made similar calls to strengthen maritime laws (see related story).

The proposed regulation to ban the transport of heavy fuel oil in single-hull tankers bound for or leaving EU ports must extend to candidate countries and neighbouring countries, says the Commission. Heavy fuel oil is frequently traded on the oldest ships and must be monitored through rigorous ship inspections. Member States must recruit adequate number of inspectors to check at least 25% of ships as required by European law. Italy currently leads the way with 43% of ships docked at Italian ports being inspected last year, while France breaches EU law by checking only 10% of calling ships.

Other measures include drawing up national plans to send ships in distress to places of refuge, working towards a compensation fund of at least €1 billion to cover marine pollution and financial penalties for irresponsible shipping. International liability should be restructured to ensure owners can no longer limit liability and charterers and operators are held accountable for their roles. The Commission is also accelerating the establishment of the European Maritime Safety Agency and traffic monitoring system, SafeSeaNet.

The Commission recently published a list of substandard ships that would be banned if the new European maritime safety rules were already in force. The black list covers 66 vessels that have been repeatedly detained in European ports for failing to comply with maritime safety rules. Turkey is the flag state for 26 substandard ships, while St Vincent and Grenadines holds 12 and Cambodia nine.

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