January 8, 2003

IMO to Europe:"leave tanker regulation to us!"
IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil will travel to Greece this Friday to meet George Anomeritis, Minister of Mercantile Marine of Greece and President of the European Union Maritime Transport Ministers' Council. O'Neil is meeting Anomeritis to discuss matters which have come to light in the aftermath of the Prestige accident. He will be accompanied by IMO Assistant Secretary-General E.E. Mitropoulos.  Since January 1, 2003, Greece has held the Presidency of the European Union.

The thrust of O'Neil's mission is to convey to Anomeritis and, through him, to the European Union, that IMO is the appropriate forum to consider and decide on any measures EU Members may feel are in need of additional regulatory action at the international level to ensure enhanced maritime safety and environmental protection. He will tell the minister that IMO is "prepared to act expeditiously."

"IMO is the forum where safety and pollution prevention standards affecting international shipping are considered and adopted.  Standards adopted through IMO apply equally to all ships of all countries. Regional or unilateral application to foreign flag ships of national or regional requirements which go beyond the IMO standards would be detrimental to international shipping and should be avoided," said O'Neil.

O'Neil notes that the expeditious way IMO acted on safety, environmental protection and liability and compensation proposals submitted in the aftermath of the Erika disaster in 1999, the success of which was globally acclaimed, indicates that an equally prompt reaction to any proposals Governments may submit to prevent Erika or Prestige-type incidents recurring in the future would be assured.

Given the prominence of Greece as a shipping nation, it is likely that the IMO Secretary General will be given an extremely cordial and sympathetic reception in Greece. What is unclear is whether the Greek presidency of the EU will position the Greek government to head off some of the controls on shipping now being proposed by other European governments, notably France and Spain.

Of all the measures proposed in the context of the Prestige accident, notes IMO, only those affecting international shipping which may necessitate regulatory action should be discussed at IMO. As far as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is concerned, only matters on which UNCLOS has accorded competence to IMO with respect to the protection and preservation of the marine environment should be brought to IMO for discussion, as the oversight of other aspects of UNCLOS is not IMO's responsibility.

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