Shipping legislators are close to agreeing a deadline for eliminating single-hulled tankers, a pollution hazard to the world's oceans and coastlines. "The deadline is 2015, but there's lots of ifs and buts," said a source, who sits a working group of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), shipping's self-regulated legislative body. "Now we'll have to put it before the committee and see what reaction we get," the source said. If the 113 committee members approve the deal hammered out by the working group of 40, then all single-hulled tankers will have to undergo major structural enhancements or be scrapped by 2015.
An IMO spokesman said: "We anticipate a conclusion on Friday (April 27) and an official announcement on Monday."
The source on the working group said a difficult but vital step would be getting the approval of IMO's European Union
(EU) members, which initiated the entire IMO review of tanker safety.
The EU forced IMO to legislate swiftly by threatening last summer to abandon the IMO process and act unilaterally to protect its coastlines from another Erika disaster.
The Erika spilled 8,000 tons of heavy fuel oil into the English Channel when it broke up during a storm in December 1999. Since then Europe has suffered five more minor tanker accidents in its waters.
The working group's conclusion is thought to be a compromise between IMO's original proposal drafted in October and an alternative formulated by Denmark and Brazil, which opposes the original proposed deadline. Brazil is on the working group along with several other key objectors from major maritime nations
, a source said.
The package would include a Condition Assessment Scheme, which would allow well-kept older tankers to continue trading under increased surveyor scrutiny.
The scrapped single-hulled tankers would be replaced by a new generation of double-hulled tankers, which offer greater protection against oil spills during low speed collisions and groundings. The United States, stung by the Exxon Valdez Alaskan oil spill in 1989, has already set a deadline banning single-hulled tankers from U.S. waters from 2015 -- a move that was seen as undermining IMO's international status.
Fearful of becoming a dumping ground for old tankers if the EU went ahead with its threat, Asian states strongly backed an international solution at IMO. - (Reuters)