The details of the "compromise" worked out by IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee, to accommodate European demands for the early phase-out of single hull tankers, have been widely reported. ICS is currently assessing the implications of the proposed timetable for accelerated withdrawal of hundreds of tankers and the feasibility of their orderly replacement.In part at least, the proposals are not so different from those suggested by ICS, and less disruptive than those originally demanded by the European Commission.
There is also every reason to hope that amendments to the MARPOL Convention will be agreed, in April 2001 that will be sufficient to ensure that the Europeans withdraw their threat to introduce regional legislation in the wake of the "Erika" disaster. That said, it cannot be ignored that IMO has had to respond to a political threat, and that there has been no discussion of the technical justification for a phase-out programme which will have billion dollar implications for the shipping industry.
Of equal significance to the proposed phase-out dates are the conditions which European countries are insisting should be attached to any life extension beyond January 2005 for "pre-MARPOL" tankers and January 2010 for "MARPOL" ships. The logic of devising this so called "Condition Assessment Scheme" before IMO has reviewed the effectiveness of the existing Enhanced Survey Programme is questionable, but some form of supplementary survey scheme may have to be accepted as the price for European agreement to vessels staying in service beyond the arbitrary OPA 90 "drop dead" dates.
It now seems likely that IMO will survive this latest threat to its integrity as the global maritime standard setting organisation. But it will be most regrettable if this proves to have set a precedent whereby IMO departs from its traditional approach of debating proposals on their technical merits with the views of all nations respected equally.