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Maritime safety: accelerated phasing-in of double-hull oil tankers

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Maritime safety: accelerated phasing-in of double-hull oil tankers

This regulation speeds up the replacement of single hull oil tankers by double hull or design equivalent oil tankers to reduce the risk of accidental oil pollution in European waters.


Regulation (EC) No 417/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 February 2002 on the accelerated phasing-in of double hull or equivalent design requirements for single hull oil tankers and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 2978/94 [See amending acts].


Most oil tankers are currently of "single hull" design. In such vessels, oil in the cargo tanks is separated from the seawater only by a bottom and a side plate. Should this plate be damaged as a result of collision or stranding, the contents of the cargo tanks risk spilling into the sea and causing serious pollution. An effective way of avoiding this risk is to surround the cargo tanks with a second internal plate at a sufficient distance from the external plate. This design, known as a "double hull", protects cargo tanks against damage and thus reduces the risk of pollution.

Following the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989, the United States (US), dissatisfied with the ineffectiveness of the international standards on the prevention of pollution from ships, adopted an Oil Pollution Act in 1990 (OPA 90). This act unilaterally imposed double hull requirements on both new and existing oil tankers. Faced with this unilateral measure on the part of the Americans, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) had to take action and established double hull standards in 1992 in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). This convention requires all oil tankers with a deadweight tonnage (DWT) of 600 tonnes DWT or more delivered as from July 1996 to be constructed with a double hull or an equivalent design. There are therefore no longer any single hull tankers of this size that have been constructed after this date. For single hull tankers with a deadweight tonnage of 20 000 tonnes DWT or more, and delivered before 6 July 1996, the convention requires that they comply with the double-hull standards at the latest by the time they are 25 or 30 years old, depending on whether or not they have segregated ballast tanks.

Given that it is difficult to transform a single-hull oil tanker into a double hull tanker and that the age limits specified are close to the end of the commercial life of a vessel, both the American system and the MARPOL Convention lead to the phasing-out of single-hull oil tankers. Nevertheless, the differences between the American system and the international system will mean that, as from 2005, single hull oil tankers banned from US waters on account of their age will begin to operate in other parts of the world, including the European Union (EU), and will increase the risk of pollution in the areas concerned.

The Commission is concerned about the situation above as figures show increasing accident rates for the older vessels. It therefore believes that an appropriate EU response is required, to take effect before 2005, an important deadline since it is the date from which single-hull oil tankers banned from US waters will start to be used in European waters.

The purpose of this EU regulation is therefore to reduce the risk of accidental oil pollution in European waters by speeding up the phasing-in of double hulls. The regulation applies to all tankers of 5 000 tonnes deadweight or above, which enter or leave a port or offshore terminal or anchor in an area under the jurisdiction of an EU country, irrespective of their flag, or which fly the flag of an EU country. This regulation shall also apply to oil tankers of 600 tonnes deadweight and above for the transport of the heavy grades of oil.

Single hulled oil tankers are not allowed to operate under the flag of an EU country, nor are they allowed to enter into ports or offshore terminals under the jurisdiction of an EU country after the anniversary of the date of delivery of the ship in the year specified below:

  • For category 1 oil tankers:
  • For category 2 and 3 oil tankers:

The Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) will be applied to all types of oil tanker which have reached 15 years of age by 2005 for category 2 and category 3 ships. The CAS is a complementary scheme of enhanced surveys specially designed to detect structural weaknesses in single hull oil tankers.


Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 417/2002



OJ L 64 of 7.3.2002

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 2099/2002



OJ L 324 of 29.11.2002

Regulation (EC) No 1726/2003



OJ L 249 of 1.10.2003

Regulation (EC) No 2172/2004



OJ L 371 of 18.12.2004

Regulation (EC) No 457/2007



OJ L 113 of 30.4.2007

Regulation (EC) No 219/2009



OJ L 87 of 31.3.2009

Regulation (EC) No 1163/2009



OJ L 314 of 1.12.2009

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 417/2002 have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.

Last updated: 29.08.2011