15/4/04 - Though the Director General of Shipping has defined crude andproduct tankers for the purpose of applying the age norms, it has heldthat product tankers even if they carry edible oils will be banned if theydo not conform to the guidelines.
THE domestic vegetable oil importers are in a fix with the DirectorGeneral of Shipping seeking to apply strictly its age norms on tankersregardless of the cargo carried by them.
Through a circular issued on August 14 last year, the DG (Shipping) haddecided to ban all crude and product tankers (both foreign and Indianflag) that are more than 25 years of age from entering Indian waters fromApril 1 this year.
Further, all crude and product tankers above 20 years which do not havethe mandatory Condition Assessment Programme 2 (CAP 2) rating for hull,machinery and cargo equipment either from a full member of theInternational Association of Classification Society (IACS) or the IndianRegister of Shipping (IRS) will also be banned from entering Indianshores.
The circular applies to foreign and Indian flag ships when oninternational voyages to and from any Indian port, but does not cover gascarriers and dedicated chemical tankers.
Though the DG (Shipping) has defined crude and product tankers for thepurpose of applying the age norms, it has held that product tankers evenif they carry edible oils will be banned if they do not conform to theguidelines.
"In case a product carrier carries edible oils, it may also attract thesame provisions if it does not comply with the age norms," says Mr NareshSalecha, Senior Deputy Director General of Shipping.
Mr Salecha, however, disclosed that the edible oil importers had submitteda representation in this regard, and is being examined in the Directorate.
"We are consulting our technical department on what are the problems facedby the edible oil importers and what can be done on the matter," he said.
The DG (Shipping) has defined a crude oil tanker as an oil tanker engagedin the trade of carrying crude oil (Regulation 1 (29) of Annex I of MARPOL73/78), while a product tanker means an oil tanker engaged in the trade ofcarrying oil other than crude oil (Regulation 1 (30) of Annex I of MARPOL73/78).
Since a product tanker can also be used to ferry other cargo, includingedible oils, and with the DG (Shipping) determined to apply the normsstrictly by the age of the tanker, the edible oil importers fear that theywould also come under the maritime regulators' net while chartering shipsfor bringing their cargo.
"The focus of DG (Shipping) is not on oil pollution, but on tankersirrespective of the cargo carried by them," a domestic charterer toldBusiness Line adding that it does not make any difference what the tankercarries.
For instance, product tankers also carries bunkers (fuel oil) for runningships' generators. "Bulk carriers also carry bunkers, why is the DG(Shipping) not banning such carriers which also pose a great risk to theenvironment," he asked.
Some of the edible oil importers are examining the possibility ofchallenging the norms issued by the DG (Shipping), particularly theapplicability of the guidelines to liquid bulk cargoes other than crudeoil and products. India imports about 4.5-5 million tonnes of edible oilannually, most of which are carried on small ships from Malaysia andIndonesia. "So, where is the question of spillage or pollution," an edibleoil importer wondered.
Besides, edible oil is environment friendly and in case of a spill, itwould be a nutritional source to the marine life unlike in the case ofcrude and fuel oil spills, which damages the environment.
With the freight rates for moving edible oils going up by about $5 pertonne recently, there is an upside as a result of which freight space isgetting scarce.
The age norms prescribed by the DG (Shipping) will lead to furtherrestricted availability of vessels. "When there is a restrictedavailability of ships in the market, the freight rates shoots up," theimporter said.
If the maritime administration is serious about its intention to preventoil pollution in India's territorial waters, it should ban old tankerscarrying such cargoes which causes environmental hazards when a mishapoccurs as was done by the European Union countries.
"But if you look at the DG circular closely, it is evident that the banwill be applicable even to empty tankers or tankers carrying fresh wateras the focus is only on ageing tankers irrespective of the cargo carried,"he pointed out.
The maritime regulator appears to be "totally confused" on the matter, heremarked.