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Sunday, September 23, 2018


The Transport Committee of the European Parliament met for the first time on Monday to discuss the post-Erika Communication presented by the Commission in March. Mrs Aida Axelson from Prisma Consulting attended the meeting on behalf of INTERTANKO.

The three proposals attached to the Communication - revision of the PSC directive, revision of the Class societies directive, and a new directive for the phasing out of single hull tankers - were, as expected, the main points of discussion.   Commissioner De Palacio was also present to address the Committee and to outline the Commission's point of view on these proposals.

The discussions confirmed that even though there are forces both in the Parliament and among Member states (Council) that are working for solutions to be adopted in the IMO, the EU process will in any case run in parallel.  Furthermore, the debate - particularly on the phasing out issue - illustrated that opinions among Members of the European Parliament  differ widely.   In more detail the debate could be summarised as follows:


The rapporteur nominated for this issue, Mr Mark Watts (UK Socialist), was unfortunately not present during the debate.  Thus the issue was not discussed in great detail.  He is expected to prepare a working document for the next Committee meeting on June 20. 


The rapporteur nominated for this issue is Mr Josu Ortuondo Larrea (Spain, Greens).  He stated his general intention to support the Commission's proposal with the exception, perhaps, of the issue of liability.  His draft report could be expected by September.  Mr Ortuondo expressed his concern about the fact that non-EU flagged ships would still be allowed to circulate in EU waters and still remain outside the EU regime.  It would be beneficial to Europe, he said, to seek international rules.


This issue was clearly the most contentious matter of debate.  The Commissioner's speech brought to light, once again, that this proposal was a political solution designed to calm the public uproar that followed the Erika accident.  The Commissioner continued to emphasise that the European public would not accept the risk of attracting ships that were no longer allowed to trade in the US.  She even went so far as to say that measures would have to be devised to target bad quality vessels travelling through EU waters, and that coastal states would have the right to restrict their activities.  With regard to a solution in IMO, the Commission remained adamant that whilst international solutions were desirable to diminish the risks of oil pollution worldwide, the EU could not afford to wait for the IMO.

From the Parliament's side, the rapporteur on this issue also happens to be the chairman of the transport committee, Mr Konstantinos Hatzidakis (Conservative, Greek).    Hatzidakis, supported by a few other outspoken members, remained openly sceptical to the Commission's approach to this issue.  Considerations such as age, maintenance, flag states, competitiveness of EU industry were raised and suggestions were made for more immediate measures that could help lower the risks.  HBL, distinction between heavy and light fuel cargo and stricter rules on emergency port of call were cited as examples of measures that would provide immediate results and lower the risks.  In the same debate,  however, several of the usual MEPs (Jarzembowski, Langenhagen, Simpson) congratulated the Commission on a job well done and stressed the need to go it alone if need be.  Hatzidakis will prepare a working document before the summer and present a draft report by early autumn.

From an INTERTANKO point of view, some Members of Parliament seem to be well convinced of the need for international rules.  With a rapporteur for the single hull issue and chairman from Greece, the international perspective of the shipping industry will no doubt be seriously considered at least in the drafting stages.  It will nevertheless be of utmost importance to continue to keep the Parliament well informed of the practical implications of these new measures and of possible more cost-efficient measures in order to increase maritime safety.  INTERTANKO will be submitting further comments on the Communication to the Commission, Council and Parliament in the coming weeks, and keeping a keen eye on the developments.