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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Productive debate at European Green Party conference on maritime safety .

On 11 April, the Green Party of the European Parliament held a conference on maritime safety in Bayonne, France. The main aim of the conference was to gather all stakeholders, including INTERTANKO, in order to discuss the European Greens' proposals with regard to maritime safety. Among these was the identification of sensitive maritime corridors where dangerous maritime transport (defined as transport of oil and chemicals) should be banned. The Greens also propose to use small tankers for heavy fuel cargo, to strengthen port state control and to establish a higher compensation fund to be financed by all relevant actors, including not only oil companies and shipowners but also charterers and flag states. Additionally they also support the inclusion of maritime pollution in the currently discussed proposal for a Directive on environmental liability for environmental damage.
Responding to these proposals, the industry stressed the responsibility of flag states and the importance of controlling, at international level, the quality of flags. The advantages of the international compensation regime, such as rapidity and legal certainty of the availability of funds was stressed. It was also made clear during discussion that the international regime had to be preserved and progressively reinforced. Because it was so complex and subject to the agreement of so many nations any major restructuring would result in the collapse of the regime and it would take a long time to recreate a new order. If the legislation and in particular Greens wanted to pressure substandard actors in the chain, a different legislation would have to be created.

Most importantly, significant points of convergence between the industry and the Green MEPs emerged. Firstly, it was stressed, and accepted by the Green MEPs that cooperation and expertise sharing with the so-called ‘flags of convenience’ were preferable to a condemnation of all of these flags. Moreover, all stakeholders agreed on the necessity of identifying places of refuge and of providing compensation to these places in case of pollution.
As stressed by INTERTANKO, the Green MEPs recognised that the introduction of double-hulled tankers was not a panacea against structural accidents. It was also said that since the introduction of ESP there had been no accidental pollution due to structural failure except for ships carrying either fuel oil (pollution)and molasses (no pollution but loss of life). The common factor was that those cargoes were carried at high heat. Since the likely cause of the failure was corrosion in the ballast tanks, it would be logical to require stricter controls and surveys for ships carrying high heat cargoes. This was a precision weapon rather than an atomic bomb in the form of massive withdrawal of single hull tankers. They also took on board the remark made by the industry that unilateral measures make safety rules more complex for operators and therefore can increase the risk of accidents. Finally, the role of the IMO was defended by shipowners, who stressed that the lack of implementation of the conventions was at the heart of the problem rather than the lack of conventions itself.
European Greens represent 7% of the seats in the European Parliament. Whilst they are considered as traditional opponents to the tanker industry, it was clear from the discussions during this conference that they are ready to listen to the industry's point of view and to take on board some of their remarks.

Philip Embiricos represented INTERTANKO and Bimco at the conference and a copy of his presentation is available on our website  under Presentations