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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Tanker Operator conference - pieces in the regulatory jigsaw

An examination of the regulatory jigsaw at this week’s Tanker Operator Conference in London provided a useful update on the roles being played by the regulatory quartet comprising EMSA, IMO/MEPC, the European Commission, Paris MoU and showed how these four fit together.

Chaired by INTERTANKO Managing Director Peter Swift, the conference session opened with Willem de Ruiter, Executive Director at the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the current regulatory system. The strengths he emphasised are global standard-setting by the IMO, where the expertise residing with the flag administrations and with the industry organisations contributes to the decision-making process, and the quick response that the IMO can make when under pressure. He perceives its weaknesses as a lack of compliance verification and sanctions; slow decision-making and ratification; and standard-setting at the level of the lowest common denominator. Where does EMSA fit in with these strengths and weaknesses? In addition to technical cooperation and development and operational duties such as pollution response, de Ruiter particularly emphasised its role in implementing and monitoring legislation and evaluating its effectiveness – for instance assessing classification societies, checking implementation and harmonisation of port state control. He also talked of how the IMO, as global standard setter, might become more effective with some sort of teeth – perhaps a model audit scheme.

This theme was taken up by Du Dachang, assistant executive secretary at the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), who suggested that the IMO could consider stronger mechanisms to secure implementation of IMO instruments by the flag states. How? By a voluntary audit scheme for member states, to be developed by the IMO’s Council and by MSC and MEPC.

Du Dachang also talked about the huge interest in Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs), where the scheme for West European waters approved in principle at MEPC 49 has been joined by new proposals for the Canary Islands, the Baltic (excluding Russia) and the Galapagos Islands. The one measure agreed for protection of the huge new West European PSSA is that ships report 48 hours before entry. But he pointed out that the growing interest in creating PSSAs stems from the fact that more stringent measures can be imposed once the protected area has been established – inter alia special discharge restrictions, ship routeing, mandatory reporting, compulsory pilotage, areas to be avoided, etc.

An interesting contribution came from the European Commission’s Senior Officer Bernardo Urrutia over Europe’s reaction to the Prestige accident, which threw light on where the Commission sees itself fitting in to the regulatory jigsaw. At the time of the Prestige, the Commission perceived serious safety shortcomings in the tanker sector and sensed social alarm about the urgent necessity of “new regulation to prevent the risk of further accidents”. It therefore conceived its three-pronged legislation (accelerated single hull phase-out, heavy grade oils in double hulls only, implementing extended structural checks). But why did it take unilateral action in advance of the IMO? Because the delays in existing IMO procedures were considered too long; because it had doubts about the feasibility and effectiveness of voluntary agreements; because ‘risky old tankers loaded with high-polluting oils’ were being continuously reported.

From Carien Droppers at the Paris MoU on port state control came a new focus on who is responsible for controlling such substandard shipping. As well as the owner/operator, the flag state, class and port state control, she included charterers, cargo owners, insurance companies and bankers. Charterers’ names may be included when a detention is registered. She added that over time, names currently at the bottom of the list of responsibility (i.e. charterers, cargo owners, insurers, bankers) could be ‘promoted’ to nearer the top. Positive news for tanker owners was that the Paris MoU Quality Reward System is under review now, with rewards (unspecified) being considered for the good owners.

This session also included a presentation on Equasis by its director George Barclay. He talked about the development of the database, its extended use as the ‘one stop’ information centre. He also pointed out how training is crucial for the uniformity of PSC, and the importance of ensuring the integrity of both the port state control system and the data recorded in Equasis. He highlighted the problem of corruption in PSC in some parts of the world and the need to address this through the combined efforts of all involved.

Exactly how the roles of, and relationships between, EMSA, IMO/MEPC, the EC and the Paris MoU settle down over the next 12 months will do much to shape and colour the existence of tanker operators, particularly those trading to Europe.

Contact: Bill Box