ECONOMY

Tanker industry demands greater understanding

Voicing strong opposition to European Union attempts to bring much stricter penal sanctions against seamen for instances of pollution, the Athens forum of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko) concluded yesterday. «It is not our intention to quarrel with politicians. We do want, however, to update them so that they are informed before they decide on issues that affect us,» said Intertanko Chairman Stephen Van Dyck and Managing Director Peter Swift at a press conference. They made no secret of their worries about the confusion, observed internationally, over fragmentary measures that eventually created a ridiculous situation in the shipping industry. They characteristically cited a small pollution case in the US for which the captain did not contact the owning company immediately but spoke to his lawyer first and then informed the shipowners, probably worried about the international hostility toward tankers following the unjustifiably harsh treatment by Spanish authorities of Greek captain Apostolos Mangouras, following the sinking of the Prestige tanker in November 2002. «Imagine if each seaman aboard every ship had his own lawyer who would be consulted and interfere, depending on the case, in every issue related to the ship’s operation,» the two speakers warned, painting a picture of the possible risks ahead. The principal aim of Intertanko was to set an international agreement for forging common rules in tanker building, to be accepted and applied by all registers. By setting those regulations, the tanker industry will be further protected from any accidents and the index of protecting the sea environment from pollution will rise even higher from its current high levels. Another of Intertanko’s key concerns is the allocation of responsibility for maritime accidents along the entire chain related to the operation of shipping (such as port authorities and navigators) and not to be limited to ownership and seamen. It also stressed that the lack of common legislation burdens the cost of the ship’s operation, with the difference being passed on to the consumer. The tanker industry is expected to discuss further the development of lobbying and the creation of a communication network which would allow the public to grasp the importance of transporting fuel by sea as well as the usefulness of shipping for the common benefit.