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March 5, 2003

EC and IMO in post Prestige accord
Yesterday, IMO Secretary General William O'Neil met with EU Vice President Loyola de Palacio the European Commissioner responsible for Energy and Transportation "to discuss action contemplated to be taken in the aftermath of the Prestige accident."

The two have now issued a joint statement, expressing "satisfaction with the positive and constructive manner and outcome of their consultations concerning the objectives to be achieved in the aftermath of the accident."

Cutting through the niceties, what seems to have been agreed is that once the various European institutions have finalized their position in response to the Prestige accident, the EU will then propose revisions to the MARPOL Convention with respect to the phasing-out of single hull tankers and to prohibit the carriage of dirty oils by single hull tankers. This can be expected before the end of March.

O'Neil welcomed this statement and "outlined an expeditious way to handle the EU proposals once submitted to IMO for consideration."

Both parties also agreed on the need for proactive action for the detection of structural weaknesses in ageing oil tankers, both single and double hulled.

In the meantime, the importance of designating new particularly sensitive sea areas and identifying places of refuge was stressed. The initiative taken by EU Member States to have additional PSSA measures considered at IMO's forthcoming MEPC session in July was welcomed and supported.

With regard to places of refuge, the European Commission welcomed the initiatives already taken by IMO towards adopting appropriate guidelines and underlined the importance of using these guidelines when implementing measures related to places of refuge throughout the EU.

Both sides emphasized the need to enhance flag State performance globally through IMO. Given the commitment of the EU Member States towards flag State auditing, the importance of achieving substantial progress on flag State performance at forthcoming IMO meetings (MSC, Council and Assembly) was recognized.

During the discussion, the European Commission stressed the added value the EU is bringing to IMO's work and how the relationship between IMO and the EU could be strengthened. The European Commission referred to its proposal for obtaining an early EU membership at IMO, which it considers will offer it the opportunity to "play an even more constructive role within the Organization."

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