New global timetable to phase-out single-hull tankers agreed

Marine Environment Protection Committee - 46th session: 23-27 April 2001

In a landmark decision for the cause of safer shipping and cleaner oceans, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has approved a new global timetable for accelerating the phase-out of single-hull oil tankers.

At the end of a week-long meeting of the Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 46, April 23rd – 27th, Chairman, Mr Mike Julian of Australia) at IMO headquarters in London, delegates from IMO’s 158 member States agreed to a timetable that will see most single-hull oil tankers eliminated by 2015 or earlier. Double-hull tankers offer greater protection of the environment from pollution in certain types of accident. All new oil tankers built since 1996 are required to have double hulls.

The new phase-out timetable, which will be enshrined in a revised regulation 13G of the MARPOL Convention on the prevention of marine pollution, is one of a range of post-Erika measures tabled by IMO. The new regulation will enter into force in September 2002, the earliest possible time permitted under the MARPOL Convention.

According to IMO Secretary-General William O’Neil, IMO has demonstrated quite clearly that it can respond to the needs of member governments and the world shipping community.  He said, “To deal with the fallout from the Erika we worked out a schedule, in consultation with the chairmen of our two main committees, which advanced the date of this session of the MEPC so that any amendments adopted now could be put into force as soon as the IMO Convention allows.” The 46th session of the MEPC was brought forward from its original proposed date of July 2001.

Mr O’Neil added, “The adoption of the proposed amendments to MARPOL regulation 13G reaffirms IMO’s position as the proper forum for dealing with complex technical, economic and political issues concerning international shipping, where significant differences in viewpoints can be resolved and a solution found that is acceptable to all.”

The revised regulation identifies three categories of tankers, as follows: “Category 1 oil tanker” means oil tankers of 20,000 tons deadweight and above carrying crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil or lubricating oil as cargo, and of 30,000 tons deadweight and above carrying other oils, which do not comply with the requirements for protectively located segregated ballast tanks (commonly known as Pre-MARPOL tankers). “Category 2 oil tanker” means oil tankers of 20,000 tons deadweight and above carrying crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil or lubricating oil as cargo, and of 30,000 tons deadweight and above carrying other oils, which do comply with the protectively located segregated ballast tank requirements (MARPOL tankers), while “Category 3 oil tanker” means an oil tanker of 5,000 tons deadweight and above but less than the tonnage specified for Category 1 and 2 tankers.

Although the new phase-out timetable sets 2015 as the principal cut-off date for all single-hull tankers, the flag state administration may allow for some newer single hull ships registered in its country that conform to certain technical specifications to continue trading until the 25th anniversary of their delivery.

However, under the provisions of paragraph 8(b), any Port State can deny entry of those single hull tankers which are allowed to operate until their 25th anniversary to ports or offshore terminals. They must communicate their intention to do this to IMO. The European Community Member States, together with Cyprus and Malta, indicated that they would make use of paragraph 8(b) and would deny port entry to single-hull tankers beyond 2015.

As an additional precautionary measure, a Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) will have to be applied to all Category 1 vessels continuing to trade after 2005 and all Category 2 vessels after 2010. A resolution adopting the CAS was passed at the meeting.

Although the CAS does not specify structural standards in excess of the provisions of other IMO conventions, codes and recommendations, its requirements stipulate more stringent and transparent verification of the reported structural condition of the ship and that documentary and survey procedures have been properly carried out and completed.

The requirements of the CAS include enhanced and transparent verification of the reported structural condition and of the ship and verification that the documentary and survey procedures have been properly carried out and completed. The Scheme requires that compliance with the CAS is assessed during the Enhanced Survey Programme of Inspections concurrent with intermediate or renewal surveys currently required by resolution A.744(18), as amended.

The existing MARPOL regulation 13G, adopted in 1992, already legislated for the phasing-out of single-hull tankers but over a more protracted period which would have allowed some ships to continue trading until their 30th anniversary.

The details of the revised regulation were finalised during a series of intense discussions in a working group under the chairmanship of Mr Zafrul Alam of Singapore.

Other post-Erika measures

The MARPOL amendments follow amendments adopted by IMO in October 2000 to raise by 50 percent the limits of compensation payable to victims of pollution by oil from oil tankers under the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC Convention) and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (IOPC Fund).

In addition, IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in December 2000 adopted amendments to the guidelines on the enhanced programme of inspections during surveys of bulk carriers and oil tankers (resolution A.744(18)) with relation to the evaluation of the longitudinal strength of the hull girder of oil tankers. Furthermore, IMO has taken action on several other operational matters and its Committees and Sub-Committees are incorporating work programme items relating to a list of measures aimed at enhancing safety and minimizing the risk of oil pollution, drawn up in response to the Erika incident.

Other MEPC issues

Other key environmental issues on a packed MEPC agenda included putting the final touches to a draft convention to eliminate the use of toxic anti-fouling paints on ships, deciding crucial issues regarding preventing or minimising the carriage of harmful organisms in ships’ ballast water and the prevention of air pollution from ships. (Further information is available in Briefing 11/2001)

The 46th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee was chaired by Mr Mike Julian from Australia and was held at IMO Headquarters in London between April 23rd and 27th.