Malta

In December 1999, the 24 year-old Maltese flagged “Erika”, on a voyage from Rotterdam to Leghorn in Italy, broke in two in a storm off the coast of France dumping about 14,000 of her 37,000 tonne cargo of heavy fuel oil. Heavy fuel oil can be an even worse pollutant than crude oil because the former is extremely sticky and hard to clean up. Much of the spilt oil reached the coast of Brittany causing massive pollution, not only to pleasure beaches but more especially, to shellfish stocks which were a major source of local income. This casualty caused a widespread international reaction with blame being aimed in turn at the shipowners (a one-ship company), the French charterers (TotalFina), the flag state (Malta), the ship’s classification society (Registro Italiana), even the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) whose purpose in life is to monitor those classification societies who are their members. In the end the role of “class” was held by many to be most culpable. There was also, of course, considerable concern expressed as to whether Port State Control was as effective as it should be and this particularly exercised the minds of the European Union. The EU started talking in terms of copying the USA’s OPA90 and introducing anti-pollution regulations unilaterally. In the event the members of the IMO took up the challenge and at their 45th meeting in October 2000 agreed to introduce a revised Regulation 13G of Annex I of MARPOL. It was adopted on 27th April 2001 for entry into force on 1st October 2002. The latest revised convention decrees that, by the year 2015, all single hulled tankers (with a few special exceptions) will have to be scrapped in favour of tankers with double hulls.  The trade refers to 2015 as the “drop-dead phase-out date”.  To ease the impact there is a phase-out schedule starting in 2003 when tankers built before 1973 have to go.  Then in 2004 those built in 1974 and 1975 must be scrapped and so on until by 2015 all the single hull tankers will be gone.