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Thursday, May 16, 2019 

Stena Bulk and Concordia Maritime have issued a joint statement speaking out about discrimination against veteran tankers. While they appreciate that all companies do their utmost to avoid the accidents and oil spills that historically have plagued the industry’s reputation, the policy of some oil majors who are reluctant to charter ships over 15 years of age flies in the face of the facts.

Stena bulk CEO Erik Hånell (pictured) said: "In our opinion, this approach increases the risk of accidents rather than preventing them, and it goes against the global trend for sustainability. It is not old age that stands out when you take a closer look at the data for the top-20 major oil spills since the [SS] Torrey Canyon (built 1959) in 1967. No less than nine of the ships involved were under 10 years of age, and 13 of them had not yet reached the 15-year limit used by some major oil companies today."

It should also be noted that 19 of the 20 largest spills occurred before the year 2000, and that the positive downward trend in oil spills continues despite an overall increase in oil trading over the years. This positive trend is also confirmed in the OCIMF Ship Inspection Report Programme (SIRE), through which oil companies and tanker owners have substantially increased the quality of their safety and maintenance work.

Stena Bulk, Concordia Maritime and many competitors practise the philosophy of keeping meticulously maintained ships with professional crews. This uncompromising attitude has resulted in several groundbreaking efficiency and safety solutions over the years. Their track records prove that an approach built on ship condition and quality assessments, such as maintenance standards, inspection results and CAP ratings, is the right way to ensure safe and sustainable oil transports.

"Yet age discrimination is a reality in our business," said Hånell. "Even though few would argue against that, for instance, a well-maintained, oil company-approved, 18-year-old tanker is no greater quality risk than an eight-year-old ship. A potential cause for poor maintenance could be the financial consequences of an age restriction, resulting in lack of owner attention below the 15-year limit."

The environmental impact of premature scrapping of good tonnage is another negative factor, which counteracts society’s sustainability efforts, when investing for the future, in modern eco ships. "From a fleet renewal point of view, we could also face decreased quality standards on new ships if they are being built for a 15-year lifespan," Hanell poined out.

Hånell, and Kim Ullman, CEO of Concordia Maritime, have rteached a conclusion that age discrimination is a direct threat to the safety improvements achieved jointly over time by the oil industry, classification societies and the tanker industry. It also jeopardises the willingness to invest in innovations that increase performance even further. "In a worst-case scenario, we will get a self-destructive environment where the only way to survive as a stand-alone business is to focus on short-term solutions and gains. This would move the industry away from the traditional business model, with ships that are built to last through several cycles," they said. "Our suggestion is that the oil industry once and for all replace random age discrimination and stick to the sound standards based on quality assessments of each individual ship."

The question they bring to the table is: "What would it take for an oil company with more restrictions than the IMO requires to reconsider this unnecessary policy?"

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