Port authorities boost oil tanker controls

European states, Canada, announce new safety assessments following Erika oil spill

An international grouping of port authorities said on Friday that it would crack down on sub-standard oil tankers visiting EU and several other countries following December's Erika oil spill. The organisation said members would inspect all oil tankers over 15 years old and 3,000 tonnes entering ports in its 19 member states from September to November this year.

Created in 1982, the Paris Memorandum of Understanding, or Paris MOU, is a voluntary mechanism for enforcing compliance with safety rules where ship owners and flag states fail to do so. Under the agreement, port states can inspect visiting shipping, require defects to be put right and detain ships if necessary. Its members include the port authorities of 13 EU countries plus Canada, Croatia, Poland, Norway, Russia, and, from this July, Iceland.

The organisation launched the push on tanker safety at the latest meeting of its control committee, held in Southampton, England. Its programme includes a revised "target factor," which will increase the likelihood of inspection for shipping from the poorest performing flag states.

In conjunction, the organisation said it would produce a new, three-tier system of rating the performance of different flag states, ranging from black flag for the worst through grey to white. Based on this system, ships will be given low, medium and higher priority for inspection, which Paris MOU said was "part of the continuing campaign to focus resources on the worst ships".

The control committee meeting also ratified an agreement to supply information to a new database on ship safety called Equasis being developed by the European Commission and several governments (ENDS Daily 28 January). The system is due to be officially launched next week.

Follow Up:
Paris MOU, tel: +31 70 351 1509.

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