IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil urged a realistic and pragmatic approach to consideration of proposals to amend oil tanker regulations in the MARPOL convention, as he addressed delegates at the opening of the 49th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting in London recently. The proposals submitted by all the fifteen Member States of the European Union, call for further acceleration of the phase-out timetable for single-hull tankers, an immediate ban on the carriage of heavy grades of oil in single-hull tankers and for the Condition Assessment Scheme (adopted in 2001 in the wake of the 1999 Erika incident) to be applied to tankers of 15 years of age and above.
Mr. O'Neil reflected on the achievements of the MEPC since its establishment in the wake of the Torrey Canyon disaster of 1967. That single incident had a significant impact on the regulation of the transportation of oil by ships and led to the expansion of IMO's activities in the environmental field. This also resulted in the formation of the United Nations Joint Group of Experts known as GESAMP. The report published by GESAMP in 1989 provided new findings, which suggested that oil pollution resulting from shipping operations had continuously decreased over the three decades covered by its study. The MARPOL Convention had made a significant and positive impact on tanker operations and the report of a recent study on oil input conducted by GESAMP, which will be released shortly, will reconfirm the continuance of this trend.
During the 1990s, a number of new environmental issues emerged in the work programme of IMO, such as:
- pollution preparedness and response;
- design standards for tankers;
- prevention of air pollution from ships;
- prohibition of harmful anti-fouling paints;
- invasive species and ballast water management; and
- ship recycling.