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Thursday, April 19, 2018

EU COMMISSIONER LOYOLA DE PALACIO SUPPORTS INTERTANKO’s VIEW ON THIRD LAYER OF OIL SPILL COMPENSATION

On 7 June INTERTANKO representatives met EU Commissioner Loyola de Palacio. INTERTANKO specifically raised its concerns about the European Parliament’s Transport Committee’s two main proposals to extend the scope of the COPE fund to cover pollution damage by bunkers and hazardous cargoes and to include shipowners in the funding of the proposed third tier of liability. The Commissioner considered that the Parliament’s suggestions would be unacceptable to the Commission

After extensive INTERTANKO input to the European Parliament (EP) on the Erika II package ahead of the EP’s plenary meeting next week, INTERTANKO’s focus was this week again directed towards the European Commission. Under the EU procedures it is now up to the Commission to react formally to the Parliament’s proposed amendments to the Commission’s proposal for an extended oil pollution liability regime (COPE) and other issues. 

Against this background INTERTANKO’s Chairman Lars Carlsson, together with Peter Swift, Svein Ringbakken and INTERTANKO’s Brussels advisor Ketil Djønne, met EU Commissioner Loyola de Palacio on Thursday, 7 June.  The Commissioner opened the meeting by welcoming the very close cooperation the Commission has with INTERTANKO and its Brussels representatives.  On this basis the Commissioner listened attentively to the views put forward by INTERTANKO on the need for Europe to work through the IMO in general, and on the COPE proposal in particular, on the importance of taking a flexible and realistic approach to the issue of mandatory VDRs, on the contested issue of ports being able to hold back vessels in bad weather conditions and on the need to establish an adequate system of safe heavens (“ports of refuge”) throughout Europe.

On the first – and in the long run most important issue – Ms. de Palacio commented that since her first meeting with INTERTANKO just after the Erika accident she had been pleasantly surprised by the international system’s (IMO’s) ability to respond adequately and efficiently on the issue of the phasing out of single hull tankers and indeed it was now showing a similar response in the context of oil pollution compensation.  Ms de Palacio therefore expressed increased confidence in the IMO also dealing adequately with other Commission proposals such as the retrofitting of VDRs.  She said  she now sees the role of the European Union mainly as one of defining standards and putting the necessary political pressure on the IMO to act.

Concerning the liability discussion, INTERTANKO specifically raised its concerns about the two main proposed changes introduced last week by the European Parliament’s Transport Committee, namely that the scope of the COPE fund should be extended to cover pollution damage caused by bunkers and hazardous cargoes and that shipowners should be included in the funding of the proposed third tier of liability.  The Commissioner accepted INTERTANKO’s arguments that such changes could jeopardise the possibility of reaching an agreement on a third layer within the IOPC/CLC system and indicated that she believed the European Parliament’s amendments to the Commission’s proposal were unacceptable.

Even though the Commissioner re-stated her view that the industry should accept mandatory retrofitting of VDRs in one form or the other, she also acknowledged that INTERTANKO’s concerns about the technical interfacing problems and the need to exempt vessels nearing the end of their economic life were “very valid points” and encouraged the industry to consult further with the Commission in order to find appropriate solutions. 

On a number of other issues which were also briefly discussed, such as “transparency”, “EQUASIS” and port state control, INTERTANKO has already contacted the Commissioner’s services about the future direction.