Flags of Convenience


Two weeks ago the Greek government voted for a law to extend the period of use of single-hull oil tankers. In 2003 the EU established a new regulation (1726/2003 – after the oil slick of the Greek “Prestige” flagged under the Bahamas) to phase out the use of single hulk tankers, that regulation forced all the countries to stop using the single hull oil tankers and start using the double hull ones until 2015. The Europarliament approved the regulation by 501 votes, while there were five votes against it and 14 abstentions. Among those that abstained there were nine Greek New Democracy Eurodeputies (Right Wing). In 2004 the right wing party won the Greek elections and everybody believed that it would pay back the shipowners for their generous donations. It is easy to say that it is not the most important for a small country like Greece to be a pioneer on environmental issues, but the Greek mercantile fleet is one of the largest in the world.
“..is the world leader with a fleet of 3246 ships of all types (over 1000 grit) totalling 75.156.763 gross tons, which covers the 16% of the world capacity. On the other hand, Hellenic flagged ships only total 8% of the world tonnage, which ranks Hellas in the third place among the leading shipping countries world-wide…”

From the department of Greek foreign affairs.

For those who don’t know the trick for the shipowners is to have their ships with flags of Panama, Bahamas and from other countries that have less taxes and other various profits such us the creation of single hulk tankers.
So the only way to turn the world tanker fleet to double hull tankers is to establish a global law. Of course the prohibition of using USA and EU ports and services on single hulk tankers is helpful but that doesn’t mean that there will be more safety on the oil slicks over the world.
“Prestige” in Spain and “MT Tasman Spirit” in Pakistan are just two of the Greek flagged or under Greek interest oil tankers that cause huge environmental damage. Even for those who are not sympathetic to the environmental approaches the economical impact of an oil slick is astronomical.
For more resources for the disasters look at the following links:

Naturalist Network

The basic excuse given by the Greek government for the new law is that Europe wants to decrease the Greek naval power. It is true that more than the 5 per cent of the Greek working population is working on the shipping industry so there is a lot of popular support to the law.
While there are millions tons of oil floating in the ocean with old and single hulls the shipping industry refuses to retire the ships. The strongest opposition from the shipping companies is that there will be an economical crisis, a raising in the prices of oil (is it possible for more?), could result in a general crisis. The chain of the roads of oil is complicated while the sea is full of sharks.