IMO Reports 600 “Dark Fleet” Vessels

Credit: chris-pagan-unsplash

According to IMO up to 600 tankers operate as ‘dark fleets’, reveals a Safety4Sea news source.

300 and 600 tankers are dark fleet

The dangerous practice of ship-to-ship transfers in the open ocean, as well as the methods used to obscure ship identities and turning off AIS transponders, were discussed by the IMO Legal Committee, 110th session, 21-26 March, 2023.  The Committee was informed that a fleet of between 300 and 600 tankers  was currently operated as a ‘dark fleet’ or ‘shadow fleet’

The Committee considered a document submitted to the session which raised awareness of the consequences and concerns for the global liability and compensation regime of the increase in ship-to-ship transfers in the open ocean. The Committee noted that these undermined the spirit of the regulation of ship-to-ship operations of tankers as prescribed by IMO’s International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

The Committee was informed that a fleet of between 300 and 600 tankers primarily comprised of older ships, including some not inspected recently, having substandard maintenance, unclear ownership and a severe lack of insurance, was currently operated as a ‘dark fleet’ or ‘shadow fleet’ to circumvent sanctions and high insurance costs. This increased the risk of oil spill or collision. This could also result in a participating shipowner evading its liability under the  relevant liability and compensation treaties (e.g. International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC) and the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (Bunkers Convention)) in the case of other ships, placing also an increased risk on coastal States and the International Funds for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage.

Following the discussion, the Committee considered that ship-to-ship transfers in the high seas were high risk activities that undermined the international regime with respect to maritime safety, environmental protection and liability and compensation needed to be urgently addressed.

Lawful prohibition or regulation of ship-to-ship transfers

The Committee broadly supported the recommended measures outlined in the original submission, including:

  • flag States are called upon to ensure that tankers under their flag adhere to measures which lawfully prohibit or regulate ship-to-ship transfers, and that such vessels further adhere to the spirit of the safety requirements in IMO conventions and practice safe shipping standards to minimize the risk of oil pollution;
  • flag States should consider requiring that vessels update their ship-to-ship operations manuals to include notifying their flag State when they are engaged in a mid-ocean operation;
  • port States should ensure enforcement of the safety and liability conventions on these vessels and ensure that ship-to-ship transfer operations are conducted in accordance with the applicable safety requirements in IMO conventions; and
  • should port States become aware of any ships “going dark”, they should consider subjecting such vessels to enhanced inspections as authorized, and notifying the respective vessel’s flag administration, as appropriate.

Noting the interest expressed by many delegations in contributing to the drafting of an Assembly resolution on this matter, as proposed by Spain, the Committee invited interested delegations to contact the delegation of Spain in this regard. The IMO Assembly meets 27 November to 6 December 2023.

The Committee decided that other UN agencies should be informed of the issues discussed and of concerns and challenges raised, so that they can also take action for matters under their remit.

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Source: Safety4Sea


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