EEE calls for global single-hull rules

Bringing forward the retirement of single-hull oil tankers at a regional level is confusing the international shipping industry and will be largely ineffective as long as global rules are absent, Greek maritime industry chiefs say. International regulations passed early last year had initially set down a timetable for the retirement of single-hull oil tankers built before 1982. But following the sinking of the single-hull oil tanker Prestige in November 2002 off Spain, the European Union hammered out much stricter laws bringing forward phase-out dates by up to five years, and banned single-hull tankers carrying heavy grades of oil from calling at EU ports with almost immediate effect. Continuous changes «The issue is not so much single-hull or double-hull, but rather the continuous changes in the (deadline) date,» Nicolas Efthymiou, president of the Greek Union of Shipowners (EEE) told Reuters on the sidelines of the Marine Money shipping conference in Athens on Thursday. «They signed one thing a couple of years ago, and then changed it with this new legislation. Which one is more powerful: an international convention, to which all EU countries are signatories, or this new legislation?» Of the 488 Greek-owned oil tankers slated for retirement under the first set of rules, a massive 321 will be affected by the new legislation. It will shorten their lives by one to five years. «We are either going to have a massive scrapping of ships, with no commensurate availability of new buildings and therefore an upsurge in freight rates, or countries in the Far East and Latin America will feel like the dumping ground of ships that the US and Europe don’t want,» Efthymiou said. Loopholes Industry insiders said confusion about the legislation is making it hard for shipowners to plan and budget the building of new ships while loopholes in the new rules leave plenty of room for maneuver. «The ban only goes halfway toward addressing potential problems in Europe as it allows a vessel to load out of the Black Sea or the Baltic Sea and then sail through international waters off an EU-country coast,» said a broker. «In a global context, it’s a bit pointless. For all I know, the ships affected by the legislation could have all been sold by the end of the year to countries that are not bound by these rules.» Tanker analyst Ole-Rikard Hammer, of Norway’s P.F. Bassoe ship brokers, said figures showed single-hulled supertankers, or Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) as they are known, would still make up about a third of the world fleet by 2006. «In other words, it will be extremely difficult for the charterers to avoid using single hulls,» he said. Efthymiou of the Shipowners’ Union said the industry needed international solutions. «Shipping cannot survive with fragmented, unilateral legislation,» he said. «I think that the EU has to compensate owners who are affected financially. It is up to the owner who is affected, whose property is being confiscated, to decide what he is going to do. If he decides to go to court, we will support him.»