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Saturday, March 24, 2018


Are PSSAs the most effective solution?

Six European countries joined forces at IMO during July’s MEPC 49 meeting to try and gain more control over Europe’s waters by having most of North Western European waters designated as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA). They succeeded in principle, subject to clearance by the Legal Committee (now cleared), with no objection from the Navigation Subcommittee, and subject to finalisation at MEPC next year.

They also wanted to ban single-hulled tankers from carrying heavy oil into and through the PSSA, but withdrew this request at the last minute – Europe has imposed its unilateral ban on single-hulls carrying heavy oils into and out of European waters anyway. As yet unspecified Associated Protective Measures will be applied within two years of the PSSA entering into force.

But is this really what PSSAs were designed for? Could this heavy-handed approach open the door to a string of requests for PSSAs from all over the world? Would this actually end up devaluing the fundamental concept of a PSSA?

Perhaps Europe might take careful note of Norway’s approach to the same problem. Nervous of increasing tanker traffic along its coastline as Russian oil exports increase, Norway decided to take action. Working within the existing framework, Norway has managed to achieve a significant increase in protection for its coastline without making waves.

It extended its territorial waters from four to twelve miles and declared up to 24 miles a Contiguous Zone, an area in which a coastal state has some additional rights. It is now working on establishing a system of routeing in the seas up to 40 miles offshore.

While there have been discussions and evaluations of possible PSSAs in Lofoten and the Barents Sea, the Norwegians have given careful consideration to the real purpose of protective measures. The argument has been moving towards the establishment of routeing mechanisms rather than the establishment of PSSAs.

Might Norway actually end up with more control over the waters along its coastline than the rest of NW Europe with its PSSA requiring 48 hours’ notice from all ships carrying hazardous cargo?


Strong feelings roused by the ACP’s decision to introduce a special Panama Canal SOPEP

The Panama Canal Authority’s (ACP) decision to introduce a special Panama Canal SOPEP (Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan) has stirred up strong feelings in the shipping industry.

Panama’s action is a unilateral, regional move flying in the face of an international regulatory regime. Panama is a CLC signatory, yet this move is a departure from normal practice for a CLC signatory country.

The PCSOPEP requires QIs (Qualified Individuals) and OSROs (Oil Spill Response Organisations) to be organised by ship operators. Yet vessels are part of the international oil pollution liability regime and carry CLC certificates which evidence third party liability insurance. They therefore do not need QIs and OSROs, which originate under the US pollution liability regime, and which is driven by OPA 90 rather than by the CLC to which the US is not a signatory.

In addition, we understand that right now there are no QIs and OSROs available in Panama, although there ‘hopefully’ will be by year-end … which is rather tight considering implementation is 1/1/2004.

Panama’s unilateral action over SOPEPs departs from the international regime. INTERTANKO has real concerns over the ACP’s attitude and approach which has gone straight over the heads of ship operators without consulting them at all.

The PCA needs to recognise its own responsibilities to plan its own resources in the event of an oil spill and not simply to depend on the ship operator. The PCSOPEP is another layer of bureaucracy with extra random inspections, as well as crew training and drills (including response drills) in addition to SOPEP requirements. Moreover it is valid for only two years compared to the SOPEP’s five years, involving the ship operator in significant extra costs.

INTERTANKO believes that the ACP should invest in its own rapid response equipment and control its maintenance without involving the shipowner in delays and extra costs.

The Association has been in correspondence with the Panamanian authorities. Click here for INTERTANKO’s latest letter to the ACP.