MAJOR SHIPPING COUNTRIES, SHIPOWNERS CRITICIZE EUROPEAN ACTIONS ON SINGLE-HULL TANKERS
Government representatives of Malta, the Bahamas, Russia and other major maritime countries, as well as major industry associations representing international shipowners, have attacked European initiatives designed to restrict access to old single-hull tankers.
The Maltese and other delegations attending a maritime safety conference at the International Maritime Organization said that European measures introduced recently against single-hull tankers break the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The complainants also alleged that the measures are unilateral, and go against the multilateral, uniform principles of the International Maritime Organization.
Following the oil spill of the tanker “Prestige” off the Spanish coast, the governments of Spain and France have restricted access to certain old tankers to their coastal waters, and reportedly asked their navies to escort such tankers away from their coasts.
A spokesman for the French government defended his country’s stance at the IMO, saying that the measures adopted with Spain are compatible with international laws, and designed to protect their countries from oil pollution.
In a related development, the Baltic International Maritime Council, which represents international shipowners, wrote a letter to the president of the European Union, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, regarding recent measures by the European Union on single-hull tankers in Europe.
The letter was sent on behalf of four industry associations — BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners and the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners.
“We deplore the unilateral action of certain states in declaring a 200 miles exclusion zone around their coastlines for tankers carrying heavy oil,” the industry bodies said. “We firmly believe that this action is inconsistent with the provisions of UNCLOS (the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and other applicable international laws and may, potentially, lead to conflict.”
The industry associations said that the international shipping industry has worked hard over the years with the IMO to improve safety standards through “open, reasoned and constructive dialogue with governments and legislators.”
It said that the industry is concerned that some states now appear to be “prepared to turn their back” on dialogue and cooperation with the shipping industry.
In early December, governments of the European Union decided to restrict the access permitted to single-hull tankers carrying heavy grades of oil in European waters.
Single-hull tankers are already illegal in the United States.