Paint law puts docks in danger

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 1995, 12:00am

THE future of the ship repair industry in Europe could be seriously in doubt due to pending legislation from the European Union in Brussels, says the world's leading marine coatings supsrplier International Courtaulds Coating (ICC).

If a draft European Directive currently under discussion in the European Parliament is adopted this year without amendments, then the application of tin-containing antifoulings could be banned in the EU from 1997 onwards.

If this happens, then the consequences for the ship repair yards in the EU member countries could be serious.

Ship operators faced with a possible ban on the application of tin-containing antifoulings would have to look outside Europe for their drydockings, if trading patterns allowed them.

The resultant fall-off in drydocking demand for the European yards would be disastrous, with job losses inevitable.

The problem is the wording of the European directive - 'Biocidal Products Directive', COM (93) 351 Final, Syn 465 - in its current form.

At present the directive seeks to introduce a unified set of regulations for biocidal products in the EU. This means all marine antifoulings. As the draft stands at present, the application of all tin copolymers are unlikely to survive the directive's assessment and their application within member countries is under threat from 1997.

In theory, the directive should greatly simplify the process of bringing products to the market in accordance with the needs of the shipping industry across Europe and the principle has been welcomed by the marine coatings industry.

However, the basis on which products will be judged gives serious cause for concern among the marine coatings suppliers.

The marine coatings manufacturers main bone of contention is that the directive will apply relatively strict environmental criteria, particularly against TBT (tributyltin) containing antifoulings, without sufficient consideration of the economic benefit of these products or the availability of alternatives to do the same job.

It is distinctly possible under the current guidelines that many existing products, particularly TBT containing antifoulings, will not registered and will not, therefore, be available in the EU.

Restrictions could be in place by as early as 1997.

However, this will not affect drydocking activity outside the EU nor the trading of vessels coated with these product types worldwide.

It is widely accepted that tin copolymer coatings offers ship operators considerable benefits in terms of long-term fouling control, hull smoothness and film integrity that no other product type can match.

If a ship operator routinely has to use other product types, operating costs can be adversely affected via high fuel consumption, more frequent recoating and more frequent refurbishment of the vessels outer shell.

Environmental TBT concentrations are now showing a pronounced decrease since the withdrawal of these products from use on European pleasure craft in 1987.

In contrast, deep-sea trading of vessels coated with TBT self-polishing copolymer products results in minimal environmental impact.

As the lead committee in the EU Parliament has not yet voted on the draft directive, it is open to substantial revision.

The marine coatings manufacturers are pressing for amendments to be made to the directive which would allow a more balanced view of risk versus industry benefit and are currently lobbying European ship operators and ship repair yards.