The Secretary-General of IMO, Mr. William A. O’Neil, expressed serious concern about the European Union Regulation on single-hull oil tankers, which reportedly entered into force on 21 October 2003. While being aware of the considerations which led to the regional measures being adopted by the European Union, Mr. O’Neil was particularly disturbed at their unilateral character and the negative repercussions the measures would have on the shipping industry. The industry international nature makes it imperative that safety, security and environmental standards must be established on the basis that they would be applied globally.
He was particularly disappointed at this turn of events mainly for two reasons:
- The decision not to choose IMO as the international forum for consideration and adoption of such measures as those brought into force by the European Union flew in the face of IMO’s successful response to challenges which followed the 1999 incident involving the tanker Erika – a response which had been received with satisfaction by all parties concerned, including the European Union members; and
- Because the Organization had already agreed to adopt a “fast-track” approach to accommodate European Union environmental concerns arising from the Prestige accident, particularly to consider the accelerated phasing-out of single-hull tankers. To this effect, the Membership of IMO has agreed to convene a special meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee in December to consider amendments to the MARPOL Convention, as proposed by the European Union members, with the aim of securing agreement to new global standards.
Calling on all IMO Members and MARPOL Parties to work together to ensure the success of the December session of the MEPC, Mr. O’Neil stressed that they should also act in accordance with all of their obligations under the MARPOL Convention. The role of IMO as the prime forum for technical matters affecting international shipping should also be fully recognized. Shipping is an international industry serving the overwhelming percentage of global trade and the world economy and it is therefore vital that any safety, security and pollution prevention and control standards affecting the industry be developed and adopted by the international community through the International Maritime Organization.