OIL TANKER "PRESTIGE"
Letter from David Jamieson MP to the Chairman
You will be aware of the recent sinking of the
oil tanker "Prestige" off the north-west coast of Spain.
The Transport Council has been asked at short
notice to approve Conclusions on 6 December put forward by the
Presidency in response to the accident and its consequences.
The proposed Conclusions focus largely on implementation
of existing legislative measures agreed following the sinking
of the oil tanker "Erika" in December 1999 and invite
the Commission to present further proposals where appropriate.
The UK is generally supportive of the proposals
contained in the draft Conclusions and will consider them sympathetically.
Normal legislative scrutiny procedures will
of course apply on any formal proposals emerging from the Conclusions
which require new legislation. In advance of that I thought you
would like to see this text as soon as possible.
I am sorry to give you such very short notice,
but I hope you will understand this is a very fast moving situation
and we have had very little notice of these conclusions ourselves.
We will of course let you know next week the
outcome of the Council's discussion of this issue.
4 December 2002
Letter from David Jamieson MP to the Chairman
When I wrote to you on 4 December about the
draft Conclusions for Transport Council which had been prepared
in response to the accident to the oil tanker Prestige I promised
to let you have a note of the outcome of the Council's discussion
on the issue.
The Council produced 20 Conclusions of which
a copy is attached for reference (not printed). Many of
the ideas also appear in the Commission's Communication of 3 December
which is the subject of an Explanatory Memorandum currently being
drafted and which will be with you shortly. In general the Council
expressed an intention to seek faster and further measures on
maritime safety. In the most significant Conclusions, the Council:
Invited the Commission to present
a proposal for phasing out single hull tankers (the Commission
was going to do this anyway); it expressed the hope that this
proposal would be adopted no later than 1 July;
Agreed that the heaviest grades of
oil shall only be transported in double hullsthis to be
achieved through the voluntary action of member states;
Invited Commission proposals for
more effective port inspection; and
Urged member states to identify places
of refuge for ships, to reinforce their mechanisms for the control
of maritime traffic along their coasts and to co-ordinate new
proposals for IMO-protected sea areas.
At council we gave a general welcome to the
Presidency approach and were able to accept the Conclusions. We
did suggest that there needed to be proper analysis of whether
sufficient double hull capacity was available. The Commission
undertook to make their assessment available. We reaffirmed our
support for the efforts being undertaken in the International
Maritime Organisation to establish a supplementary compensation
fund to benefit the victims of oil pollution and stressed that
measures on protecting EU coastlines should be consistent with
the international law of the sea.
16 December 2002
Letter from the Chairman to Mr David Jamieson
MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
Thank you for your letter dated 16 December
reporting the draft conclusions for the 6 December Transport Council
which had been prepared in response to the accident of the oil
tanker Prestige. I am responding to this letter in the
light of your Explanatory Memorandum 15301/02 dated 19 December.
Both papers were considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting
on 13 January 2003.
We agree with the line that your Department
is taking. Much of what the Commission seeks is unexceptionable,
but until some of the newer proposals are refined and supported
by an appropriate regulatory impact assessment (RIA), it is difficult
to give the green light to the entire package of ideas wrapped
up in the Commission's communication. We agree that there is value
in urging Member States to accelerate the implementation of the
already agreed measures adopted after the Erika II disaster.
We are less convinced that some of the additional measures proposed
by the Commission should be rushed into, and we would like to
see a lot more evidence about the costs and means of implementing
a ban on the use of single hull oil tankers to carry heavy fuels.
We also share your concern abut the Commission's
enthusiasm for the creation of a separate EU fund of
1 billion if efforts in the IMO do not bear fruit.
We are glad that your interventions at the Transport Council secured
a moderation of the language in the Council conclusions. But this
is clearly something that will need to be watched if the diplomatic
conference in May 2003 is to be steered successfully to the conclusion
that would meet the interests of all participants.
Under the circumstances, we intend to maintain
the Scrutiny reserve on this document until such time as individual
proposals covered by the Communication are presented and properly
supported by RIAs.