European Parliament votes for post-prestige accelerated phase-out of single-hulled tankers

On 4 June, the plenary session of the European Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority in favour of the Commission’s post-Prestige proposal to accelerate the phase-out of single-hulled vessels, to immediately ban the transportation of heavy fuel oil in single-hulled vessels and to broaden the applicability of the Condition Assessment Scheme.

They expressed their support for these moves and pointed at the recent incident with a Chinese vessel off the Swedish coast as an example of why the legislation needs to be in force as soon as possible.

The Parliament felt that the accelerated phase-out of so-called Category 2 tankers, generally constructed between 1982 and 1996, should also be extended to Category 3 tankers. Category 3 tankers would therefore have to be phased out by 2010 instead of 2015, as had been proposed by the Commission. All tankers of the Erika and Prestige type (category 1) may be operated only up to the age of 23 years and no later than 2005. The new rules would also apply to vessels leaving ports and offshore terminals and those anchoring in areas under the jurisdiction of a MemberState. In order not to jeopardise the EU's oil supply, the European Parliament added a new clause providing for a transitional period (until 2008) for smaller tankers with a deadweight of less than 5000 tonnes. To ensure that oil supplies are not endangered in the northern regions of the EU (i.e. the Baltic Sea) a new clause has been introduced providing for a two-year transitional period for single-hulled tankers equipped with special ice protection equipment.

The proposal was to be finally adopted at the Transport Council on 5 June. However, it is now due to be voted on and adopted at a General Affairs Council, without debate, on either 17 or 24 June. The Council is expected to agree, without exception, to the changes made by the Parliament.

The Council, the Commission, and the European Parliament had worked closely together in order to ensure that it could be adopted at first reading. This was necessary if the Regulation was to apply at the earliest possible time. The Council had requested that it apply from 1 July 2003. During their discussion on the issue, MEPs called for entry into force of the new rules by 1 September 2003 at the latest. After the Council meeting the proposal must be published in the Official Journal of the EU and will enter into force 20 days later. Publication is likely to take place in July or August and is dependant on the production of translations of the proposal into all the official languages of the EU.

During their discussion on the proposal, the European Parliament added that they hoped the new oil tankers required following the entry into force of this Regulation would be built by EU shipbuilders and not in Korean shipyards, regardless of the cost.

Contact: Dragos Rauta