Witching hour for EU single-hulls

Witching hour for EU single-hulls

LONDON - Single-hulled tankers transporting heavy fuel oil will be barred from all European Union ports beginning at midnight Tuesday.

The ban is part of a package of measures introduced after the sinking of the Prestige off northwest Spain last November caused widespread pollution of the country's coastline.

A related regulation also taking effect tomorrow prohibits any single-hulled tanker built before 1980 from calling at EU ports or flying an EU flag regardless of its cargo.

The EU has been criticized for unilaterally accelerating the phase-out of older ships before a global agreement has been reached by the International Maritime Organization, which is scheduled to discuss the issue in December.

European ports accounted for a third of the 165 million tons of so-called 'dirty' cargoes fixed on the spot market last year. Single-hulled ships transported around 57 percent of those loads.

Intertanko, the London-based independent tanker owners association, expects no major impact on the market, saying shipowners have had time to plan for the new regulations.

But the organization has voiced concern about the vague language of the legislation, including whether the ban on ships built before 1980 flying EU flags applies to offshore registers of European countries such as the Netherlands Antilles, and to the 10 countries that will join the EU next May.

The EU has insisted the new rules will give Europe the same level of protection against marine pollution as the United States.

The EU has also played down concerns that the ban will squeeze available capacity, pointing out that over the past three years that doubled-hulled vessels have risen from 30 percent to 50 percent of the world tanker fleet with more than 60 million tons of new ships on order.