International Maritime Organisation commissions study into Erica proposals

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has commissioned a study of the likely impact of European proposals to speed up the phase-out of single hulled oil tankers, made in the wake of the Erica accident off the French coast (see related story).

Belgium, France and Germany have jointly submitted a proposal to amend to a regulation phasing out single-hulled tankers by 2026, introduced by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships in 1973. The three nations aim to advance the dates of the phasing out of single hull oil tankers by proposing lower age limits, or by including size categories of ships which are currently not coverec by the legislation.

“A number of IMO member States have submitted proposals to accelerate the phasing out of older, single hull tankers,” said IMO Secretary-General William O’Neil. “But we need to make sure that all the relevant information is in the hands of our Members when they are considering the proposed changes to the regulations which were themselves adopted only after much debate and discussion.”

According to the IMO, concern has been expressed about the impact that the amendment might have on the world’s tanker fleet, and on its ability to ensure that global oil demands can be met.

The new IMO study will assess the impact of the proposals year-by-year, taking into account the volume of oil and oil products carried around the world, and the number of single-hulled tankers which would be affected by the proposals. The study will also consider the shipyard capacity which would be needed to replace the extra single-hulled tankers, and the scrapping capacity of ship recycling facilities.

“Above all, we must ensure a united, global response to the issues raised by the Erica sinking,” said O’Neil. “Any attempt to impose regional standards will simply divert the problem elsewhere. If the European Union, for example, imposes its own restrictions on tankers, we should not expect the ships that are displaced will go straight to the scrapyard. They will simply move to trade elsewhere.”

Under current regulations, existing single hull oil tankers which do not comply with requirements relating to segregated ballast tanks will no longer be permitted to operate after 2007, or in certain cases 2012, unless they comply with the double hull requirements or equivalent design standards. For single hull oil tankers which do comply with requirements, the deadline is 2026.

The study is intended to be completed in time for it to be available to members of the Marine Environment Protection Committee in advance of their meeting on October 2000.

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