The development represents an important victory for the French presidency of the EU, which has brought the issue to the top of the political agenda since last December's Erika oil spill. The EU is threatening to introduce unilateral ban by 2015, but might be satisfied with the tougher international restrictions now on the table.
The plan will be discussed again by the IMO's environment committee next April, at which point it could be effectively adopted. It includes an option of further tightening the phase-out by two years, which would perfectly match the EU's own stated plans.
Sources at the meeting told ENDS Daily that changes would also now be made to the IMO's international inspection regime, supervision of ship classification societies and other port safety matters in a broad-based push to improve maritime safety.
Much less progress was achieved this week on a proposal before the environment committee for a global ban on the use of the endocrine-disrupting chemical tributyltin (TBT) in ships' anti-fouling paint. The committee agreed last year to develop a global ban on use of TBT from 2003, and its presence on ships from 2008 (ENDS Daily 8 July 1999). But sources said that several countries were now calling into doubt the feasibility of this timetable. The issue will be discussed again next April.
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