EU countries seek consensus on oil tankers

Commission plan for unilateral single-hull phase-out "set to proceed" unless IMO acts

Moves towards a global ban on single-hulled oil tankers will be discussed by members of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) next month. Nearly half the EU's member states have contributed differing proposals, which has led to last-minute talks in Brussels to find a "common EU voice".

Officials in the European Commission told ENDS Daily that talks were progressing well, based on a compromise proposal from Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain. The details of this remain unknown, but it is clear that the EU will push for a global phase-out of single-hulled tankers earlier than the 2026 date already agreed by IMO states.

In March, the Commission proposed a draft regulation to outlaw single-hulled tankers in European waters by 2015 (ENDS Daily 22 March). If the envisaged global target date is not brought forward then officials expect the EU to move forward alone. "If the IMO fails in October, it's obvious what will happen in the EU," one told ENDS Daily. "Ministers will take up their responsibility and respond to the Commission's proposals."

The official said that widespread support for earlier phase-out seemed to be building, and that this raised hopes that the IMO meeting would succeed. "We support a world-wide solution, that's the ideal," said the official. "But if there is no [IMO] decision it will have huge political consequences, especially for the IMO."

The EU's push for an speedy end to single-hulled tankers is a direct outcome of last December's Erika oil spill off the French coast. The USA is the only country to have introduced a unilateral ban on single-hulled oil tankers, which it did following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. The IMO has criticised EU moves to legislate unilaterally as the USA has done, arguing that all maritime safety rules should be agreed globally (ENDS Daily 17 March).

Follow Up:
International Maritime Organisation, tel: +44 20 77 35 76 11; European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; Commission's "Erika" proposed directives and regulations on maritime safety.

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