October 23, 2003

IMO irked by EU tanker ban

The Secretary-General of IMO, William A. O'Neil, today expressed "serious concern" about the European Union Regulation on single-hull oil tankers which entered into force on October 21.

While aware of the considerations that led to the regional measures adopted by the EU, O'Neil was "particularly disturbed " at their unilateral character and the "negative repercussions" the measures would have on the shipping industry, which, "due to its international nature, makes it imperative that safety, security and environmental standards must be established on the basis that they would be applied globally."

In a statement released today, O'Neil said he was "disappointed" by the EU action for two reasons:

  • the decision not to choose IMO as the international forum for consideration and adoption of such measures as those brought into force by the European Union flew in the face of IMO's successful response to challenges which followed the 1999 incident involving the tanker Erika - a response which had been received with satisfaction by all parties concerned, including the European Union members; and

  • because IMO had already agreed to adopt a "fast-track" approach to accommodate European Union environmental concerns arising from the Prestige accident, particularly to consider the accelerated phasing-out of single-hull tankers. To this effect, the Membership of IMO has agreed to convene a special meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in December to consider amendments to the MARPOL Convention, as proposed by the European Union members, with the aim of securing agreement to new global standards.

Calling on all IMO Members and MARPOL Parties to work together to ensure the success of the December session of the MEPC, O'Neil stressed that they should also act in accordance with all of their obligations under the MARPOL Convention.

The role of IMO as the prime forum for technical matters affecting international shipping should also be fully recognized, said O'Neil.

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