Requirement for all vessels carrying more than 400 tons of oil to have a Panama Canal SOPEP

Further to the meeting INTERTANKO had with the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) on 15 September 2003 and our letter to the ACP dated 11 September raising members’ concerns in this issue (see Weekly NEWS No. 38 of 19 September) we have received a new circular from the ACP which has taken some of our points into account - MR’s Advisory to Shipping No. A-38-2003 plus enclosure: PCSOP & OSRO Requirements in the Panama Canal.

However, the underlying concerns have not been addressed (i.e another layer of SOPEP in addition to the IMO-approved SOPEPS and SMPEPS already in place).

The Panama Canal Authority has also given the following advice and clarification:

A Panama Canal transit involves passage through inland (internal) waters of Panama, specifically a freshwater lake system from which filtration plants provide potable water for over a million citizens, comprising one third of the population of Panama. As such, MARPOL’s SOPEP falls short of providing a framework within which the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) can ascertain timely intervention in the event of a major spill in Canal waters.

Therefore, the ACP’s plan includes two additional requirements, which are well known throughout the industry: the Qualified Individual and the Oil Spill Removal Organization. Both entities will be integrated into the ACP’s incident management system and will aid in achieving its goals. The OSRO’s main function is to provide confinement and clean-up services for the vessel under guidelines established by the Panama Canal Authority. Furthermore, the ACP, via periodic exercises and unannounced inspections, will assess the effectiveness of the OSRO’s performance. This will ensure the state of readiness desired under the PCSOPEP.

In keeping with its goal to ease the burden of complying with these new requirements, the ACP has reviewed its guidelines as follows:

1.  An existing SOPEP can be used as a basis for developing a PCSOPEP. This will entail making the PCSOPEP an annex to the SOPEP, including all applicable cross-references to the SOPEP. Please click here for an equivalency chart Table 1 of the requirements and applicability of MARPOL’s SOPEP, OPA’s VRP and PCSOPEP.

2.  The QI and his/her alternate must reside locally, be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, be bilingual (Spanish & English), and have a formal designation and authorisation to access funds. Knowledge of spill response operations is optional but certainly in the best interest of the plan holder.

3.  Determination of Tier coverage required will be based on oil carrying capacity as fuel and cargo. This will permit plan holders to easily identify the coverage required and eliminate the chance of non-compliance conditions.

Implementation deadlines are being established whereby ships requiring coverage by local OSROs (TS, T1 and T2) will not have to include or identify their OSRO in their plans by July 2004 for T2 and by October 2004 for TS and T1. By these dates, their OSROs must be identified in their plans and be operational. As Tier 3 coverage may be internationally based, the information must be included in the PCSOPEP on the first visit to Canal waters on or after January 1, 2004. Please click here for Table 2 providing further deadline information.

INTERTANKO is working together with INTERCARGO and other shipping associations to jointly address the issue. Members will be kept informed

Contact: Howard Snaith