Shipowners protest EU member actions
In response to the Prestige incident, France and Spain have already been using warships to escort some elderly tankers beyond their 200 mile exclusive economic zones. And the European Commission has unveiled a package of measures that it has hailed as "spectacular advances" for maritime safety.
However, in a move applauded by Intertanko, the Governments of both the Bahamas and Malta have made statements at IMO protesting against the recent denial of the right of freedom of navigation for vessels in EEZ waters and advocating adherence to the rule of law and international concerted action.
The leading international shipowners' organizations don't see things quite that way. They see these developments as an attempt to "undermine the global maritinme infrastructure" and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Yesterday, the Round Table of Maritime Associations wrote in protest to the current President of the European Union, Danish premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as follows:
Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Prime Ministers' Office
Prins Joergens Gaard 11
1218 Copenhagen K
12 December 2002
Dear President of the European Union
The international shipping industry is deeply concerned to learn of attempts by EU Member States to undermine the global maritime infrastructure enshrined by UNCLOS. We deplore the unilateral action of certain States in declaring a 200 miles exclusion zone around their coastlines for tankers carrying heavy oil. We firmly believe that this action is inconsistent with the provisions of UNCLOS and other applicable international laws and may, potentially, lead to conflict. Moreover, this action will not lead to a resolution of the key issue arising from the Prestige and similar incidents - how to reduce the risk of pollution damage from shipping casualties in the future.
The international shipping industry has worked hard over the years with the IMO to improve safety standards through open, reasoned and constructive dialogue with governments and legislators. The industry is deeply disturbed that in the wake of the Prestige incident some States now appear to be prepared to turn their back on all the good work that has been achieved and to close the door on any further dialogue with the industry. It is ironic that at a time when governments and the industry have worked closely and successfully together to implement improved maritime security policies, certain European governments appear no longer to see any benefit in maintaining an open dialogue with the industry to resolve harmoniously and efficiently this current situation.
There are many important issues at stake that need to be properly debated, not least of which is the development of a consistent approach to the provision by coastal States of places of refuge. The "not in my back yard" approach taken by a number of coastal States in recent years demonstrates nothing more than an appalling lack of responsibility towards the international community. The EU transport ministers seem to have pre-judged the outcome of any inquiry into the Prestige and concluded that the fault rests entirely with the shipping industry and that the Spanish government as "the victim" should be free to determine the fate of the accused. We strongly suggest that in the interests of fairness and justice that the EU instigates a full independent enquiry into Spain's handling of the Prestige incident. We all have lessons to learn in order to reduce the risk of a similar incident happening again.
Only by working together and talking together to develop and implement consistent rules and regulations can governments and the industry hope to provide a safe and economically stable shipping industry that will ensure that the risk of shipping casualties are decreased and that, in the unfortunate event of a casualty, the risk of pollution damage is reduced. International trade and the global economy is wholly reliant on the shipping industry and, therefore, governments must act sensibly and responsibly to ensure that their reaction to regrettable oil spills, such as the Prestige, does not impinge upon existing rights and freedoms.
We respectfully ask you to take into account the views of the international shipping industry in your forthcoming Summit deliberations.
Michael Everard, C.B.E.
President of BIMCO
(on behalf of the Round Table of Maritime Associations)