Oil majors reject EU maritime safety accord

Trade body says legislation the better option to deal with substandard oil tankers

Major oil companies have rejected European Commission proposals for a voluntary agreement with the oil shipping industry to reduce the danger of oil spills, it has emerged. The Commission proposed an agreement to make immediate progress towards higher safety levels following December's Erika spill, while three major law proposals go through the EU's legislative process.

"A voluntary agreement really isn't the way to go for an open, transparent solution," John Hughes of the Oil Companies' International Maritime Forum (Ocimf), told ENDS Daily today. "The problem is it's not all-embracing," he said, because any deal would fail to catch the increasing number of "rogue traders" transporting oil through the EU's waters. "It will miss the people most likely to run risks," he said, adding that oil companies now only controlled 30% of oil shipments.

The voluntary agreement, a draft of which has been seen by ENDS Daily, would anticipate several proposals in three maritime safety laws proposed by the Commission in March (ENDS Daily 22 March). It includes an obligation to ensure oil tankers over 15 years old are inspected in dry dock every two-and-a-half years and decommissioned if they have been detained by port officials more than twice in two years.

The draft also says that double-hulled tankers should be used wherever available, and includes a commitment to transport "particularly environmentally hazardous oils" such as heavy fuel oils in double-hulled tankers only. A commission official said a suggested start date for this obligation of next January was only a point of departure for negotiations. The official stressed that talks with bodies such as Intertanko, whose members own 70% of tankers plying EU waters, were still at an early stage.

Ocimf's stance is in marked contrast to the generally held industry view that voluntary agreements are preferable to laws because they offer more flexibility. Mr Hughes nevertheless questioned the Commission's proposal for a unilateral phase-out of single-hulled tankers, saying that the issue should be tackled through the International Maritime Organisation (ENDS Daily 8 September).

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; Ocimf, tel: +44 20 7654 1200.

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