Industry Organizations Condemns Unilateral Action

Thursday, December 12, 2002
The Round Table of international shipping industry organizations, including BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), INTERTANKO and INTERCARGO today condemned the continuing contravention of the Law of the Sea Convention by coastal states in the wake of the "Prestige" incident. In a joint statement the four organizations said: "Inevitably political and public feelings run high after a major pollution incident, and everyone naturally and understandably sympathizes fully with the people of Galicia in their current difficulties. But that is no justification for the blatantly illegal action taken by the Governments of Spain and France in ordering a number of foreign ships out of their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. Merchant ships are entitled to freedom of navigation through the EEZ, and such flouting of international obligations by two important maritime nations sets an inexcusable and damaging precedent which should be strongly opposed by other nations worldwide. We have urged the two states so far directly affected, Malta and Bahamas, to take this matter up with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg as a matter of urgency. Sovereign states must be curbed from believing that they can take the law into their own hands with impunity. They should remember that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea covers issues far wider than environmental protection - defense, fishing, underwater exploration. Would coastal states be so dismissive of their commitments to international law if defense was the issue?" The four organizations also called on the EU members to honor their long-stated support for IMO and the principle of international regulation, and to avoid regional measures in the aftermath of the sinking of the "Prestige". The statement continued: "Political soundbites from Brussels may make good newspaper headlines, but the industry needs global rules which only IMO can provide. Before Europe rushes into ill-considered, and in the main politically opportunistic, demands for accelerating the single-hull phase out program, let it look to its own shortcomings, including: the critical need to establish places of refuge and the conditions attached to them; a Port State Control regime to which each member, and not just those who choose to, gives its full commitment. "It is less than two years since a well-constructed timetable for phasing out single-hull tankers was introduced, taking full account of society's demand for oil, the capacity of the shipyards and ship recycling yards, and the need to avoid a tonnage supply crisis. Before the politicians try to tinker with that timetable they must take a sober look at the tanker supply/demand situation and not simply rely on blind faith. We need to address the causes of the loss of the "Prestige", as well as the events immediately after the initial incident, and not succumb to irrational and wrongly focused proposals which do not stand up to scrutiny".

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