UN maritime official urges balanced approach to oil tanker regulation

15 July 2003

The head of the United Nations agency responsible for the prevention of marine pollution by ships has called for a “realistic, pragmatic and well-balanced” approach to tanker regulations following a major pollution accident off the west coast of Spain last year.

Any decisions should not “cause or lead to any negative repercussions,” the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), William O'Neil, told the agency’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) which began a week-long meeting in London yesterday.

Such potential repercussions included damage to the concept of universality in the regulation of shipping, discrimination against other regions of the world and negative impact on the supply of oil as well as undermining the authority of IMO and permitting other regions to create their own regimes if in disagreement with IMO, Mr. O’Neil said.

Mr. O'Neil reminded delegates that following the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige off the west coast of Spain in November 2002 and soon after the magnitude of its impact on the marine environment was revealed by the coastal States, he embarked on a number of activities to ensure that IMO could respond promptly to any action that might be needed.

The IMO is the UN specialized agency with responsibility for the safety of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.