EU Countries Propose MARPOL Amendments in Prestige Response

Friday, April 11, 2003
The Secretary-General of IMO, William O’Neil, received from all the fifteen Member States of the European Union, each of which is a Party to the MARPOL Convention, a set of formal proposals to change certain provisions of the MARPOL Convention. In essence, the proposals call for further acceleration of the phase-out timetable for single-hull tankers, an immediate ban on the carriage of heavy grades of oil in single-hull tankers and for the Condition Assessment Scheme (adopted in 2001 in the wake of the 1999 Erika incident) to be applied to tankers of 15 years of age and above.

The proposals will be circulated among all IMO Member States and Parties to MARPOL prior to their consideration at the 49th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), to be held at IMO’s London Headquarters in July. In June, the IMO Council will be asked to sanction an additional meeting of the MEPC to be held this year, so that MEPC 49 could decide on holding an extra meeting in December, at which any measures arising from the proposals will be considered for formal adoption. Such an arrangement would give IMO Members the minimum six month period, stipulated in the Convention, in which to consider any proposed amendments and allow MARPOL Parties to consider introducing new international measures at the earliest date. To ensure IMO Member States have as much relevant information as possible to hand when they consider the proposals, IMO Secretary-General William O’Neil has reactivated the Informal Group of Experts, which was commissioned in 2000 to assess the likely effect of post-Erika proposals, to study the impact of the new proposals now submitted. The group will take into account criteria such as the volume of oil and oil products carried by oil tankers world-wide and by region; the number of single-hull tankers to be affected by the proposals; the capacity of shipyards needed to replace the single-hull tankers that would be withdrawn from service and the capacity available world-wide; and the scrapping capacity of ship-recycling facilities on an annual basis. The study has to be completed within a very short period of time and will be undertaken by the IMO Secretariat, assisted by independent experts nominated by industry organizations. The work will be co-ordinated by the IMO’s Marine Environment Division. The Informal Group is expected to draw on expertise and experience from any available source, including Member Governments and international organizations. The study is expected to be finalized by the end of May 2003, for dissemination as soon as possible thereafter for consideration by MEPC 49. IMO Secretary-General O’Neil expressed satisfaction at the submission of the proposals to amend the MARPOL Convention. In the aftermath of the Prestige sinking, Mr O’Neil repeatedly expressed the firm position that IMO should always and without exception be regarded as the only forum where safety and pollution prevention standards affecting international shipping should be considered and adopted. During meetings earlier this year with the President of the European Union Maritime Transport Ministers' Council, Yiorgos Anomeritis, and the Vice-President of the European Union,. Loyola de Palacio, Mr O’Neil urged Member Governments to bring any safety and environmental issues relating to the Prestige incident to IMO for consideration and appropriate action.

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