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TBT ban threatens yard business

If a draft directive currently under discussion at the European Parliament is adopted without amendment, the use of tin-containing (TBT) antifoulings within EU member countries could be banned from 1997 onwards.

The consequences for ship repair yards could be disastrous, according to Peter Lenney, marine business director for marine coatings company International (Courtaulds Coatings): "The implications are massive. The most efficient antifouling products which provide clear environmental and economical benefits to shipowners may simply not be available throughout Europe." The greatest threat lies in the fact that ship operators faced with a possible ban on the application of TBT antifoulings would have to look outside Europe for their drydockings.

The resultant fall-off in drydocking demand for the European yards would be disastrous, with job losses inevitable, said International.

At present, the directive seeks to introduce a unified set of regulations for biocidal products in the EU, but Nick Granger, director of the Shipbuilders & Shiprepairers Association (SSA) which represents U.K.

yards, points out: "The Biocidal Products Directive goes far wider than shipbuilding and ship repair. It was devised by the Health, Safety and Environment experts and until quite late in the day no one thought of asking industry how practical a measure it was." In theory, the directive should greatly simplify the process of bringing products to the market in accordance with the needs of the shipping industry across Europe a principle which has been welcomed by the marine coatings industry. It is the wording of the proposal, however, that has gone awry.

Jotun, a pioneer of TBT-free antifoulings, along with International, has taken environmental factors to heart with the development of its TBT-free Seaguardian product but, nevertheless, Marketing Manager Linda Diamond points out: "A number of our larger customers requiring five years fouling free sailing periods have now switched back from tin-free to the TBT type self-polishing antifoulings and would certainly continue along this route until a tin-free product guaranteeing the same type of protection is available." She also questions the true environmental benefit of a TBT ban: "When considering the environment there are a number of factors to be taken into account. Since the introduction of self-polishing antifoulings, the TBT content has been reduced. As tinfree antifoulings remain less effective than tin-bearing products over longer sailing periods, users must be prepared to accept shorter drydocking intervals or possible fouling and a rougher hull. Then it is relevant to ask whether the environment is better served by greater fuel consumption than the release of minute quantities of biodegradable TBT compounds into the oceans." Marine coatings manufacturers are strongly petitioning for amendments. The Marine Painting Forum (a 20-member strong group of shipyards, contractors, manufacturers, etc.) is urgently attempting to clarify the situation, and the SSA has participated in discussion of the directive and its likely effects within the Association of West European Shipbuilders Group on Shiprepair and also within the Board of the Committee of EU Shipbuilder Associations (CESA).

Concerns have further been raised with the industry Directorate (DGIII) in the European Commission and with individual member states.

J. Ventura de Sousa, director of Portugal's Lisnave, one of Europe's foremost ship repairers, acting in his capacity as a member of the Transport Working Group of the Association of Portuguese Shipyards, has written to the president of UNICE (Union of Industrial and Employers Confederation of Europe) to ask that the matter be added to the agenda of the next annual OECD hearing of international governmental and professional organizations. He expresses his concern: "Unless modifications are made, the directive will cause drastic losses of business and possibly closure of some European yards, mainly those which are devoted to the building and repair of hightonnage vessels."

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