Increasing amount of Green Awards for tankers

Dec 23, 1996 01:00 AM

In 1996 17 tankers have received the Green Award, boosting the number of ships audited and certified as having met the scheme's requirements for safe and environment-friendly operations to 33. The Rotterdam-based Green Award Bureau is the first industry-led system of environmental indexing for ships, and the consensus view is that a critical mass stage is being reached, following which the programme will develop of its own momentum.
The concept of the Green Award was born in 1992 when the Netherlands' Maritime Directorate and the Port of Rotterdam discussed an innovative approach that would not only promote economic activity within the port area but also encourage shipowners to make a commitment to safety and environmental protection. The idea was to reward shipowners whose vessels were proven to meet certain stringent performance standards. When the scheme was launched in 1994 the Dutch government, the Port of Rotterdam Authority, the Dutch Pilotage Organisation and the Rotterdam Boatmen's Association supported the initiative with financial incentives. Today, that support has been extended to encompass not only other service providers in Rotterdam, the world's busiest tanker port, but also South African and Spanish ports.
Spain's ports, for example, will levy charges on Green Award-certified tankers equivalent to 93% of the normal tariff and Portnet in South Africa offers a 5% rebate off port dues for Green Award tankers that are not already enjoying a 5% rebate due to their double-hull or segregated ballast tank (SBT) configuration. Initially, only crude oil tankers of 50,000 dwt and above were eligible for the Green Award certification but in January 1996 the scope was extended to include all tankers of 20,000 dwt and above, including products tankers.
The Green Award Bureau, which administers the programme, reports that it plans to welcome bulk carriers and combination carriers into the scheme in 1997 and all other types of ship in due course. The bureau continues to seek further support for its initiative from other maritime organisations, including ports, on a world-wide basis and marketing efforts have been concentrated in countries situated along the major oil tanker sea lanes. Initially, tanker owners were reluctant to give the scheme their full support because the Green Award does not recognise whether a ship is an SBT tanker or not. This dilemma was resolved on January 1 1996, at least in Europe, with the entry into force of EU Regulation No 2978/94 which calls for either implementation of IMO Resolution A. 747 (18) and exemption of SBT spaces from port charges based on gross tonnage or, alternatively, discounts in port dues of not less than 17% for SBT oil tankers. However, the argument remains valid for countries outside Europe because support of the Green Award scheme could, theoretically, enable countries to evade compliance with IMO Resolution A. 747 (18). The commission's Maritime Safety Unit in Brussels has said that EU Regulation No 2978/94 is applicable to all tankers which meet its requirements, i.e., including suitable chemical and products tankers. Some shipowners, sensitive to the need to work for unified change through IMO, have expressed concern about the Green Award precedent of encouraging adherence to standards in excess of the agreed minimum. Ships put forward by their owners for a Green Award certification are subject to a rigorous audit which includes not only a check on compliance with all relevant IMO-backed regulations, but also a clean safety/environmental performance record for the past two years and assessment to a standard of operational and technical quality that goes beyond the current mandated benchmarks. Technical features which are checked include vapour emission control, waste disposal and tank cleaning while on operational matters inspectors verify the nature of management control, crew qualifications, survey systems and planned maintenance programmes. The emphasis is on the human element aspect of tanker safety and each audit has both shipboard and shore-side phases.
The Green Award Bureau is also sensitive to criticism of proliferating tanker inspections. However, the secretariat points out that every effort is made to harmonise the audits with other survey activities to which the ship is subject. A shipowner's compliance with relevant quality assurance and management codes helps minimise shipboard assessment time. Award certificates are valid for three years and during this period annual onboard checks are carried out to validate continuing compliance. Certificates are withdrawn should non-compliance be proven. "Offering extra services and/or rebates to above-standard ships is a practical, co-operative method of maintaining and approving high standards," declared Arne Wolters, managing director of the Green Award Bureau at the IMAS 96 Shipping and the Environment Conference in October. "In addition, the voluntary, proactive measures taken by shipowners under the auspices of the Green Award scheme help limit risks, mitigate the effects of accidents and improve the efficiency of ship operations."

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