EU Agrees to Accelerated Phase-Out of Single Hull Tankers
It now seems clear that an agreement on the Post-Prestige accelerated phase-out of single hull tankers, the ban on single hull tankers carrying heavy fuel oil and the wider introduction of CAS has been reached by the European Commission, the EU Member States, and the European Parliament. Everything is set for the adoption of the proposal in early June, keeping it on track to be in effect by July 1. In the meantime, the IMO is about to consider the EU's submission for similar regulations at an international level.
Following the Council of Transport Ministers' s informal agreement, reached on March 27, the three institutions cooperated closely in order to facilitate the quick passage of the proposal through the legislative process.
On March 27 the Council of Ministers agreed on a definition of heavy oil as oils of a density equal to, or lower than, an API grade 25.7, while also attempting to bring the phase out schedule more in line with OPA-90. Ministers also agreed to provide a transition period until 2008 for banning the transport of heavy oil on single hull tankers in the tonnage segments between 600 and 5000 dwt.
On April 30, the report of the European Parliament's Rapporteur, Wilhelm Piecyk, was discussed in the Transport Committee. It was clear that Piecyk had based his report on the Council's agreement. His report was adopted almost unanimously, indicating that it has the support of all the political parties in the European Parliament.
First reading votes are to be held in the plenary of the European Parliament on June 2 and in the Council on June 5/6. Given the agreement between the institutions, it is almost certain that the proposal will be passed at this first reading. It will then be published in the Official Journal and will enter into force 20 days later.
A group of experts within the IMO has been examining a submission made by the EU, EC and 15 member states, based on this proposal. The Marine Environment and Protection Committee will examine it in July and may take it forward to a vote during a yet-to-be agreed specially convened MEPC meeting in December. There is a strong disagreement between the IMO and EU legal services as to whether it will be necessary for the EU Member States to denounce parts of MARPOL before they can implement new legislation in this area.
It is however clear that the EU states will press ahead with the proposal as it is at present. Many MEPs and EU Member States have indicated their preference for international rules but have claimed that the IMO is not capable of acting quickly enough to meet their concerns hence the need for regional rules.