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December 19, 2002

EC sets deadline for tanker crackdown
The European Commission has set a March 2003 target date for tough new tanker rules.

No single-hull oil tanker will be allowed to carry heavy fuel oil in the European Union once a proposal presented today by the European Commission has been adopted by European Council and Parliament, says a statement from Brussels..

Furthermore, all single-hull oil tankers "of Erika and Prestige type" aged more than 23 years will be "immediately banned from the Union," while the elimination of younger ones will take place earlier, between 2005 and 2010, according to a stricter calendar than provided for by current rules.

During the phasing out period, those single hull tankers that have not yet reached the age limit will be subject to stricter safety inspections.

The Commission's proposal covers ports, offshore terminals and anchorage areas under the jurisdiction of a Member State.

"Our first proposal of this kind dates back to just after the Erika disaster in December 1999," said Loyola de Palacio, Vice-President for Transport and Energy, "The Prestige catastrophe makes it clear that the agreed compromise rules were not sufficiently ambitious. This will change." 

"I hope that the measures we are putting forward today will swiftly enter into force," she continued, "so that the threat to our maritime and coastal environment is radically and rapidly reduced."

The EC statement notes that the Prestige, a 26-year-old single hull oil tanker carrying 77,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, sank off the coast of Galicia on November 18, creating an oil slick on the coastline of Galicia which caused a major economic and environmental disaster.

The Commission proposed today to reinforce EU and international maritime safety rules agreed in the aftermath of the Erika disaster. In view of the catastrophic consequences of the Prestige accident, the Commission urges the European Parliament and the Council to adopt these measures as soon as possible so that they can enter into force no later than March 2003.

The Commission proposes an immediate prohibition of the transport of heavy oil grades in all single-hull oil tankers bound for or leaving European ports. Given its relatively low commercial value and low risk of fire or explosion, heavy fuel is regularly carried in older single-hull tankers. It is also paradoxically the most polluting type of oil when spilled at sea. Due to its low volatility and high viscosity it can inflict the most severe damage on marine and coastal ecosystems.

The Commission's proposal will make it compulsory to transport the most polluting products in the safest ships. If adopted, it will thus reduce drastically the risk of environmental disasters such as those caused by the Prestige and Erika accidents.

The Commission also proposes today to speed up at European level the phase-out of single-hull tankers for the transport of all types of oil.

In particular, the oldest and most vulnerable types of single-hull tankers, constructed before 1982, will be phased out when they reach 23 years of age, as compared with 28 years of age under current rules, and by 2005 at the latest for the most recent ones.

Other categories of large single-hull tankers should be phased out by 2010, with a more strict calendar than provided for by current rules.

With this new proposal, similar to the initial European Commission proposals in 2000, in the aftermath of the Erika's disaster, the European Union will apply stricter rules than the United States of America for the phasing-out of single-hull tankers.

It will give a further boost to the modernization process of the tanker industry, says the Commission statement.

Over the last three years, the share of double-hull tonnage in the world fleet has gone up from 30 to 50% with another 60 million tonnes of double-hull capacity on shipyards' orderbooks.

The European tanker industry, which to a large extent had already anticipated the application of the existing phase-out rules, is presently undergoing the largest modernization program in its entire history.

The Commission finally proposes to impose a broader and earlier compliance with reinforced inspection rules for single hull tankers which have not yet reached their age limit.

All single hull tankers, including the smallest which were formerly excluded, would now have to comply with the "Condition Assessment Scheme" (CAS) as from 15 years of age. The CAS is an additional reinforced inspection scheme specifically developed to detect structural weaknesses of single-hull tankers. Tankers, even relatively young ones, which do not successfully pass the test may not be allowed in EU ports or to be operated under an EU flag.

The Commission urges the Member States to make every effort to have these stricter safety standards reflected for the entire world fleet through the International Maritime Organization's rules.

Comparison of new proposed rules and former agreed rules NB : Both the ERIKA and the PRESTIGE tankers were Category 1 tankers of 26 years. To ensure a better protection of the marine environment, the Commission reinstates today the proposed dates for phase-out it had put forward in the "Erika I" package. These, it says, "had been watered down in the subsequent legislative process."

The three main categories of single-hull tankers remain those of Regulation (EC) N 417/2002:

Category 1: so-called "pre-MARPOL" single hull oil tankers, being crude oil tankers of 20000 tons deadweight and above and oil product carriers of 30000 tons deadweight and above having no segregated ballast tanks in protective locations (SBT/PL). These are the most vulnerable and oldest tankers. Generally constructed before 1982.

Category 2 corresponds to "MARPOL" single hull tankers, being of the same size as category 1, but which are equipped with SBT/PL. Generally constructed between 1982 and 1996.

Category 3 corresponds to single hull oil tankers below the size limits of categories 1 and 2 but above 5000 tons deadweight. These smaller tankers often operate in regional traffic

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