March 28, 2003
According to a Commission press release, under these proposals [which must now be approved by the European Parliament] no single-hull oil tanker will be allowed to carry heavy fuel oil in the European Union. all single-hull oil tankers of Erika and Prestige type aged more than 23 years will be immediately banned from the Union, and the elimination of more recently built single hull vessels will take place earlier, between 2005 and 2010, according to a more stricter calendar than provided for by current rules. During the phasing out period, those tankers that have not yet reached the age limit will be subject to stricter safety inspections.
"This is a spectacular step-ahead, only some months following the Prestige disaster, which allows the full ban in EU waters of the most dangerous tankers: Europe answers positively to our citizens' concerns" said Loyola de Palacio, Vice-President for Transport and Energy, " I know that the European Parliament will support this approach and I expect this new regulation to enter into force very quickly. We must now try and extend these measures at the international level".
According to the Council, its proposals will be submitted to IMO's MEPC (Marine Environmenal Protection Committee) in July.
Once it takes effect, the new regulation prohibits the transport of heavy oil grades ( the most polluting categories of : heavy fuel oil, heavy crude oil, bitumen and tar) in all single-hull oil tankers bound for or leaving ports, offshore terminals and anchorage areas under the jurisdiction of a Member State.
Given its relatively low commercial value and low risk of fire or explosion, heavy fuel has been until now regularly carried in older single-hull tankers, while it is. the most polluting type of oil when spilt at sea. Due to its low volatility and high viscosity it can inflict the most severe damage on marine and coastal ecosystems. The new legislation aims at changing radically the current trend and makes it compulsory to transport the most polluting products in the safest ships. it will thus reduce drastically the risk of environmental disasters such as those caused by the Prestige and Erika accidents.
The agreement also speeds up at European level the phase-out of single-hull tankers for the transport of all types of oil. In particular, the oldest and most vulnerable types of single-hull tankers, constructed before 1982, will be phased out when they reach 23 years of age, as compared with 28 years of age under current rules, and by 2005 at the latest for the most recent ones. The other categories of large single-hull tankers will be phased out by 2010, with a stricter calendar than provided for by current rules.
With this new regulation, says the Commission statement. the European Union will apply rules as strict as those applicable in the United States of America for the phasing-out of single-hull tankers. It will give a further boost to the modernization process of the tanker industry. Over the last 3 years, the share of double-hull tonnage in the world fleet has gone up from 30 to 50% with another 60 million tonnes of double-hull capacity in shipyards' orderbooks. The European tanker industry, which to a large extent had already anticipated the application of the existing phase-out rules, is presently undergoing the largest modernization program in its entire history.
The new regulation imposes a broader and earlier compliance with reinforced inspection rules for single hull tankers which have not yet reached their age limit. All single hull tankers, including the smallest which were formerly excluded, will now have to comply with the Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) as from 15 years of age. The CAS is an additional reinforced inspection scheme specifically developed to detect structural weaknesses of single-hull tankers. Tankers, even relatively young ones, which do not pass successfully the test may not be allowed in EU ports or to be operated under an EU flag.
On this basis, the European Union will now submit t new proposals in order to have these stricter safety standards reflected for the entire world fleet through the International Maritime Organization's rules.
Comparison of new proposed rules and former agreed rules
NB : Both the ERIKA and the PRESTIGE tankers were Category 1 tankers of 26 years.
The three main categories of single-hull tankers remain those of Regulation (EC) N 417/2002 :