INDUSTRY WANTS U.S. TO BLOCK ENTRANCE OF SUBSTANDARD TANKERS
A U.S. vessel industry executive warned lawmakers that stricter measures on substantial tankers abroad might bring these ships to the nation’s ports.
“In the highly competitive world of international shipping, restrictions that bar older tonnage from particular trades necessarily drive substandard tonnage to trades where regulations and practices are more lax and permissive,” said Robert N. Cowen, senior vice president and chief operating officer for New York-based Overseas Shipholding Group, before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Jan. 9.
“But recent spills involving older, single-hull vessels off the coast of Europe highlight the continuing dangers associated with older single-hull vessels and the very real risk that stricter rules in other parts of the world will force such vessels to trade to the U.S.,” Cowen said.
In November, the tank ship 'Prestige,' carrying about 20 million gallons of fuel oil, began leaking from a split in its hull off the coast of Spain. The spill brought international attention to the plight of aging single-hull tankers on the high seas.
The European Commission is considering accelerating its phase-out program for single hull tankers to be more in line with the U.S. government’s 1990 Oil Pollution Act. The act calls for all single-hull tank vessels to be retrofitted with double hulls or be phased out by 2010, with a few exceptions for scheduled phaseout by 2015.
Rear Adm. Paul J. Pluta, assistant commandant for marine safety, security and environmental protection for the Coast Guard, assured lawmakers during the hearing that “under OPA 90, the tank vessel 'Prestige' had reached its phaseout on Jan. 1, 2000 and could no longer operate carrying oil in a U.S. port.”
“(T)he success of OPA 90 can be measured by the absence of significant oil spills from tankers in U.S. waters since its passage,” Pluta said. “It establishes the cornerstones of prevention, preparedness and response that serve as a useful model for the international maritime community.”