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De Palacio, the Commissioner for Transport and Energy, was speaking at
the opening of a Brussels exhibition.

Discussing EU maritime policy objectives, de Palacio, said that the
current focus was primarily on safety. The Prestige spill was “a cruel
reminder of the need for action.”

She noted that following the Prestige accident and at the unanimous
request of the EU Council of Ministers, the Commission had reacted
quickly and submitted a draft regulation to speed up the timetable for
phasing out single hull tankers and to ban the transport of heavy fuel
oil in single hull tankers.

De Palacio offered a hint of hope to bunker barge operators, most of
whose present fleet would be prevented from operating under the
Commission’s proposals as drafted. She said that “during the legislative
process, we are ready to take into account, if well justified, elements
in order not to affect trade and to guarantee security of supply. For
example, we are ready to find a solution for small oil tankers.

De Palacio conceded that “generally speaking, these issues are best
addressed at global level in the context of IMO.” But she made it clear
that the Commission is determined to impelement its agenda, declaring
that “in this specific case, only firm and decisive actions at EU level
will influence the discussions in this organization. In a more general
tone, I truly believe that the time has now come to challenge the
fundamentals of international shipping law, adjusting them to the new
geo-political environment and technological developments. The European
Union should become the protagonist of this change.”

Turning to maritime security, she said it was the Commission’s “strong
belief that the right way to proceed against terrorism is through
agreements widely supported by the international community.”

“Again here, the European Union must be united vis-a-vis our trade
partners and in the context of IMO. I have to be frank with you. I am
preoccupied by the U.S. unilateral measures such as the Container
Security Initiative. These measures will inevitably result in delays in
the logistics chain and distortions of competition between European
ports,” she said. This was why she was pushing for a bilateral agreement
between the EU and the U.S. on this issue.


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