Indecision over whether Marpol Annex II products should be recategorised into three categories or five is threatening to obstruct the regulation, resulting in delaying or even losing an opportunity to gain better protection of the environment.
The present categorisation system for noxious liquid substances has five categories A,B,C,D and Appendix III. The Appendix III contains products to which the IBC code does not apply and which are therefore unregulated.
INTERTANKO believes that it is crucial to achieve the abolition of the unregulated category of products, Appendix III. INTERTANKO believes that tightening up the system and regulating all noxious substances is a price worth paying for enhanced protection to the environment. It is backed in this belief by all its members. INTERTANKO therefore supports a proposal which reduces the five categories to just three, which will be regulated, with new names X,Y,Z.
The alternative main proposal is to have a new five category system also called A,B,C,D which retains the unregulated Appendix III. INTERTANKO believes that this has already led to confusion and misunderstanding among member states at IMO and that it would lead to confusion in practice.
A third hybrid proposal reshuffles products into four categories, but again this retains the unregulated Appendix III category.
So where is the indecision? Ironically the indecision is coming not from the owners/operators, nor from the oil and chemical companies, but from some of the flag states. And behind the indecision lies Appendix III.
Some flag states would prefer to keep Appendix III cargoes unregulated, since regulation involves extra facility costs ashore and administration. For instance, under the present system, one of the requirements for tank washing disposals is that the vessel has to be 12 miles offshore. Some flag states are proposing that this restriction is eased or abolished for some products, in effect relaxing the current restrictions rather than enhancing them.
A number of flag states have experienced pressure from parties reluctant to incur increased costs in handling new regulated cargoes - in particular pressures arising from the inability of reception facilities in some countries to accommodate increased residues from tank washings if all products were to be regulated under a new 3 category system, let alone accommodate those from existing regulated cargoes. Surprisingly some flag states also believe that the current regulations are OK as they are.
A three category system X,Y,Z, will provide a simpler, easier, stronger pollution control system which will be easier to understand, easier to implement and easier to police, while at the same time bold enough to protect the marine environment well into the 21st Century
Ten years of work have gone into revising Marpol Annex II which is scheduled for adoption in 2005 and entry into force in 2007. It would be unfortunate - and indeed rather ironic - if this support from the tanker industry for tighter regulations to better protect the environment were to be obstructed by some flag states on the grounds of commercial interests.