Subsequent to the grounding of the oil tanker EXXON VALDEZ in 1989, the U.S. introduced the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) which included provisions for the double-hulling of oil tankers. OPA 90 required new oil tankers to be double-hulled and established a phase out scheme for existing single-hulled tankers.
New oil tankers under OPA 90 included those built after 1990, but for tankers already on order it also included tankers delivered up to January 1, 1994. Older single-hulled tankers were phased out starting in 1995 and the final date for phase out of all single-hulled tankers was 2015. The phase out of any particular single-hulled tanker was based upon its year of build, its gross tonnage and whether it had been fitted with either double bottoms or double sides.
International requirements for the double-hulling of oil tankers were introduced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1993 through an amendment to Annex I of MARPOL. This amendment also required new oil tankers to be double-hulled and existing tankers to be phased out, but the scheme was not identical to the OPA 90 scheme. New oil tankers under MARPOL included those built after 1993, but for tankers already on order, also included tankers delivered up to 1996. The phase out of existing tankers under MARPOL applied only to large tankers (tankers over 20,000 deadweight tonnes carrying crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil or lubricating oil as cargo and product tankers over 30,000 DWT). Older large oil tankers were phased out starting in 1995 and the final date for phase out of all large single-hulled tankers was 2026. The phase out of any particular large single-hulled tanker was based upon its year of build and whether or not it was fitted with approved segregated ballast tanks (tankers without segregated ballast tanks but with wing tanks or double bottoms not used for the carriage of oil and meeting the requirements of 13E(4) of MARPOL Annex I, covering at least 30 percent of the length of the cargo tank area for the full depth of the ship on each side or at least 30% of the projected bottom shell area with the length of the cargo tank area may be considered as being fitted with segregated ballast tanks). Large single-hulled tankers must be phased out when they are 25 years old if they are not fitted with segregated ballast tanks or when they are 30 years old if they are fitted with segregated ballast tanks. MARPOL also accepts the use of hydrostatic balanced loading or other approved alternatives as equivalent to double-hulling.
Subsequent to the sinking of the ERIKA off the coast of France in 1999, there were proposals to strengthen MARPOL requirements with respect to the double-hulling and inspection of tankers. These proposals were aimed at bringing the international requirements more in line with the OPA 90 requirements, including the phase out of smaller tankers and the elimination of single-hulled tankers by 2015.
Amendments to MARPOL were adopted in April 2001 and became effective on September 1, 2002. These amendments extend the phase out of single-hulled oil tankers to all tankers of 5000 dwt and above and accelerate the existing phase-out schedule for large tankers. The phase out of single-hulled tankers through this amendment commences in 2003 with the final phase out occurring in 2015. The phase out of any particular tanker is based upon its year of build and whether it is a large tanker with segregated ballast tanks, a large tanker without segregated ballast tank or a smaller tanker. Provisions are, however, included to allow existing tankers that meet the side protection requirements in the International Bulk Chemical Code for type 2 cargo tank locations and the bottom protection specified in regulation 13E(4)(b) of Annex I of MARPOL to continue to operate. There are also provisions in regulation 13G(5) to allow tankers with only a double bottom, double side or a double hull not meeting the requirements of the regulation to operate until they are 25 years old. In addition, other tankers with some protection may operate until they are 25 years old or 2017 (whichever is earlier). These provisions are subject to the approval of their Administration. However, Administrations were given the option of not accepting tankers using this extension of service in their waters.
The amendments to MARPOL also include a requirement for certain large existing single-hulled tankers to comply with the Condition Assessment Scheme in order to operate after 2005 or 2010 until their phase out date. The U.S. has indicated that they will continue to apply OPA 90 and will, therefore, not implement the amendment to MARPOL.
The US is such a relevant oil trade country that most tankers are forced to be compliant with both regulations. The two regimes are not identical, and because of the different tonnage cut-offs, it is difficult to precisely compare them. The OPA 90 and revised IMO schemes are, however, close enough that neither regime offers a significant difference in environmental protection.
It is clear that the industry has gone through a slow but thoughtful approach in developing a regulatory framework that sets clear rules for oil tankers. One of them, and perhaps the most significant, has been ruling out single hull tankers.
Let me leave you all with a reflection. Today we have ships navigating the waters that carry as much or more bunkers (FO and DO) than a midsize tanker and they carry it in their double bottoms (single shell). Have we actually ruled out single hull “exposure”?