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December 5, 2003

MEPC reaches agreement on MARPOL changes

Intensive discussions this week in IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee have resulted in international agreement on a number of amendments to the MARPOL convention on prevention of pollution, reports INTERTANKO, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners.

  • The phase-out of single hull tankers will be accelerated.
  • The carriage of heavy oils in double hull tankers will be mandatory, subject to certain exemptions.
  • Condition Assessment Schemes (CAS) for tankers over 15 years of age will be compulsory
  • .

According to INTERTANKO, the international phase-out date for single hull tankers will be 2010 instead of the current 2015. However a flag state may allow the continued operation of Category 2 and 3 vessels beyond 2010, but only up to 2015 or the ship's 25th anniversary date, whichever is earlier.

Category 2 and 3 tankers with double bottom (DB) or double sides (DS) may continue trading up to their 25th anniversary even if this is beyond 2015.

However. a port state may deny entry to its ports or offshore terminals of

  • a single hull tanker which has been allowed by its flag state to extend its life beyond its phase-out date, and
  • a single hull tanker with DB or DS after 2015.

New international requirements covering the carriage of heavy grade oil (HGO) as cargo will apply from May 4, 2005 to tankers of 5,000 dwt and above, and to tankers of 600-5,000 dwt from 2008 with a few exceptions. Hgo is defined as crude oils with a density higher than 900 kg/cm; fuel oils with a density higher than 900 kg/cum or with a kinematic viscosity at 50 C higher than 180 centistokes; bitumen, tar and their emulsions.

A flag state may allow tankers of 5,000 dwt and above with DB or DS to carry HGO until they reach 25 years, even if this is beyond 2015. It may also, subject to CAS, allow single hull tankers of 5,000 dwt and above to carry heavy crude oils until they reach 25 years; and tankers 600-5,000 dwt to carry hgo until they reach 25 years (and, when fitted with DB, even beyond 2015). Domestic trades may also be exempted.

However, "subject to provisions of international law," a port state may deny entry to tankers carrying hgo to ports or offshore terminals under its jurisdiction, and may deny ship-to-ship transfers of hgo in areas under its jurisdiction. [INTERTANKO says it understands that the 15 EU countries have already stated that they will deny entry to their ports of ships whose flag state has extended phase-out, and of ships which are DB or DS ships trading after 2015.

Condition assessment schemes (CAS) will be required for all Category 2 and 3 tankers which have reached their fifteenth year at intervals of up to 5 years and 6 months, and will be aligned with the existing Enhanced Survey Programme. The first CAS survey should be undertaken at first special survey or intermediate survey after 5/4/05 and the validity of the CAS certificate will be 5 years and 6 months from the date of survey completion. Recognized Organisations will be allowed to issue after first CAS survey an interim certificate of compliance with a maximum validity of five months, but not after second CAS survey

INTERTANKO says it "welcomes the robust international debate that has taken place." It also "applauds the fact that this agreement has been reached at IMO, the appropriate body for promulgating international shipping legislation."

INTERTANKO says the practical outcome on the accelerated phase-out of single-hulls goes "some way to secure a compromise between regional EU rules and the international regime."

INTERTANKO also notes how IMO has provided the opportunity for the adoption of reasonable measures limiting the carriage of heavy oils to double-hulled tankers, although it believes that the definition of "heavy" could have been substantially improved. INTERTANKO finally highlights the practical implementation of CAS, along the lines it has been promoting, to achieve a practical and workable solution.

However, INTERTANKO points out that the provisions whereby a port state may 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, 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.

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