EU ban on use of halons will take effect 1 January 2004

In line with the requirements of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the Ozone Layer, Regulation 2037/2000/EC aims to phase out the use of these products, including halons, together with products and equipment containing such substances. Regulation 2037/2000, which came into force in October 2000, sets a deadline of 31 December 2003 for Member States to decommission halons from ships. By letter dated 8 December to the EU Member States the European Commission has now reconfirmed that the deadline will remain unchanged. Protest by some Member States at the severity of the enforcement of this deadline might cause there to be some deadline flexibility at the last minute. INTERTANKO will keep members advised.

In certain very limited cases and where no substitute can be found, an exception might still be granted for the use of halon 1301 “for the making inert of occupied spaces where flammable liquid and/or gas release could occur …in existing cargo ships". The definition of “existing cargo ships” is contested, however, and the Commission has made it clear that such exceptions should be rare.

The ban on the use of halons is a FlagState requirement, but the sale of halons in EU ports is also banned. This implies that all EU flagged vessels will have to comply, wherever they may trade. In addition the Regulation also forbids the sale, import and export of halons in, to or from the EU market. Third flag vessels calling at EU ports might still have halons on board but will not be allowed to refill their systems with halons in any European port after 31 December this year.

The letter comes as the European Commission has concluded that most Member States have now progressed sufficiently in the decommissioning of halons from vessels under their flags for the Regulation to become fully applicable. A further postponement of the deadline would therefore unfairly penalise those MemberStates and owners that have already invested time and effort to install halon-free fire-fighting systems. The Commission has announced that it will assess the situation in the course of 2004 and, if necessary, bring Member States to Court if their vessels do not comply.

It is consequently advisable for all ships under European flags to be halon-free by 31 December 2003. Ships under other flags may still have halons on board when trading to EU ports but they will be unable to refill or top up their halon-based systems after 31 December 2003. Members are invited to inform INTERTANKO on eventual practical problems related to the entry into force of this Regulation.

Contact: Tim Wilkins