Supreme Court Orders Review Of W. Coast Tanker Rules

Friday, September 17, 1999
INTERTANKO's long fight to overturn what it sees as unfair and damaging tanker legislation in the U.S. West Coast region is gaining ground, as on Friday, September 10, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a writ to the federal appellate court that reviews decisions in the western U.S. directing a review of that court's disposition of litigation challenging tanker regulations imposed by the State of Washington. The challenged Washington State regulations imposed on U.S. and foreign tankers carrying oil in Washington waters a number of unique regulations governing on-board equipment, technology, crew training and qualifications, and operational requirements. INTERTANKO brought suit in 1995 challenging these rules as being constitutionally invalid given the substantial federal presence in the same areas of regulation. INTERTANKO also contends that the proliferation of variable local regulations governing vessel safety and environmental protection places at risk the international safety system that requires comity among maritime nations and ultimately jeopardizes the natural environment that Washington State seeks to protect. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, found in favor of INTERTANKO's attack on the State's equipment and technology rules, but let stand State of Washington efforts to impose differential regulations on vessel manning and operational requirements. INTERTANKO sought Supreme Court review of that portion of the appellate court's decision that left discretion to the State and was supported by the Government of the U.S. "We are most pleased with the Supreme Court's decision to review this important matter," said Dagfinn Lunde, the Managing Director of INTERTANKO. "Very few cases receive Supreme Court scrutiny and we view this action as a concurrence with INTERTANKO's assessment that state and local actions in the field of vessel safety present, at a minimum, serious constitutional issues in the U.S. federal scheme. Moreover, if the individual states and localities can unilaterally secede from the demanding federal and international standards that the U.S. and other maritime nations, along with activist organizations like INTERTANKO, have promoted, all the progress we have made over the past twenty years is at risk." The tanker association's chairman, Westye Høegh, specifically commended the positive stance taken by the U.S. Government in the matter. "When INTERTANKO initiated this litigation, we were concerned about the apparent willingness of other affected sectors of government and industry to let INTERTANKO go it alone. The U.S. government's support both at the appellate level and before the Supreme Court has been most welcome and reflects the leadership position of the U.S. in promoting global safety standards for vessels." The INTERTANKO membership includes, as Full Members, 270 tanker companies with over 2,000 tankers totaling 172 million tons deadweight. This is equivalent to 75 percent of all independently owned tanker tonnage worldwide. In addition, there are 281 INTERTANKO Associate Member companies.

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