EU to ban single-hulled oil tankers

Commission communication outlines "radical" proposals to reduce marine pollution spills

Single-hulled oil tankers should be banned from European waters by 2015, EU transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio said yesterday. The plan is one of several proposals to increase the safety of commercial shipping put forward by the Commission in the wake of the Erika oil spill off the coast of Brittany, France, last year. The measures were "far-reaching" and would "reduce the chances of accidents and pollution," it said.

Under the proposals, single-hulled oil tankers will be banned in stages, depending on vessel tonnage, effective in 2005, 2010 and 2015. Last month, France announced it would ban such vessels unilaterally by 2008 (ENDS Daily 11 February), and is likely to push strongly for the measures to become EU law during its six-month stint as the bloc's president, which starts in July.

In other moves being suggested by the Commission, all kinds of cargo ship over 15 years old would be banned from EU ports if they had been detained by port authorities twice in the last two years, and a "European structure for maritime safety" would be established. A "collective indemnity regime," establishing the liability of cargo owner and carrier in the event of an accident, would also be set up, and a "blacklist" of ships would be published every six months. The moves are aimed at "discouraging old, technologically obsolete and potentially unsafe" ships, it said.

The Commission said the changes were necessary because current regulations on ship safety, largely agreed under the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), "fall short of providing an adequate response to maritime safety." Last week, the IMO called on the EU not to adopt stricter standards than those approved world-wide, saying they would be detrimental to world shipping (ENDS Daily 17 March).

Ms de Palacio acknowledged the measures would have cost implications for industry, but insisted that the Commission had to "strike a balance" between environmental and economic concerns. As an interim measure she called on oil companies to voluntarily refuse to charter tankers over 15 years old unless they were in a good condition.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and official press release dated 21/3/00 on Rapid.

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