The European Union passed
legislation to ban all single-hull oil tankers from
its waters by 2015, in line with an international agreement to phase-out the ships, considered an environmental hazard. EU transport ministers agreed the regulation just six months after they threatened the international shipping community that they would ban the ships unilaterally if no action were taken at a global level.
At a meeting of the International Maritime Organization
(IMO) last month, the European bloc claimed victory after securing a worldwide phase-out of the tankers.
Europe's drive for better maritime safety intensified after an oil slick off northern France in December 1999 when the Maltese-flagged tanker Erika ran aground, spilling its cargo of 8,000 tons of heavy fuel oil close to the shore.
The public outcry led the EU to launch a range of new policies aimed at improving maritime safety.
The so-called Erika program, much of which is still under discussion, aims to improve ship inspections, install airline-style "black boxes" on ships, increase compensation payable after accidents, and create a new European maritime safety agency.
Under the IMO deal, which the EU brought into law, big tankers that are not equipped with segregated ballast tanks will be banned worldwide by 2005.
There are progressive phase-out dates for other categories of tanker until 2015 when all tankers above 5,000 tons deadweight will be banned, with certain exemptions. - (Reuters)