IMO prepares for vote on single hull phase-out

France, Germany, Belgium, push for early ban on single hull oil tankers; IMO investigates impacts

A proposal by three EU states to speed up a global phase-out of single-hulled oil tankers has prompted the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to announce a feasibility study. The proposal was submitted by France, Germany and Belgium and will be voted on at the next meeting of IMO's marine environment protection committee in October.

The three governments' demand follows last December's Erika oil pollution disaster, when a single-hulled oil tanker broke up off the west coast of France (ENDS Daily 7 January). The USA unilaterally banned single-hulled tankers from its ports after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

An IMO spokesperson told ENDS Daily that the UN agency was pleased the three European countries had respected shipping tradition by presenting their proposal instead of pursuing a unilateral European ban on single-hulled oil tankers as threatened by the European Commission earlier this year (ENDS Daily 22 March). "If it is deemed that a certain type of ship is a pollution risk and should no longer be used, then that should be the case around the world," said the spokesperson, adding that unilateral bans led to a "ghettoising" of single-hulled oil tankers.

IMO says it wants to provide its 158 member countries with objective information on the impacts of the tighter timetable proposed by the France, Germany and Belgium, details of which it declined to provide. The organisation is to investigate how many single-hulled oil tankers would be affected by an early ban as well as shipyard capacity to replace tankers removed from service, ship scrapping capacity, and whether global oil distribution needs might be threatened.

Since 1996, new oil tankers must have double hulls or meet IMO-approved equivalent design standards. Under these rules, it is already foreseen that existing single-hulled oil tankers will have to be phased out between 2007 and 2026, depending on the safety standards they meet.

Follow Up:
IMO, tel: +44 20 77 35 76 11, press release, and background information.

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