THE Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has denied the request of local tanker operators to relax penalties for single-hull tankers in operation until February 2009.
The department is standing by an earlier regulation allowing single-hull tankers waiting for their replacement to continue operating until February next year subject to a P25,000 fine per day. The penalty applies regardless of whether the ship is laden or empty.
The P5-million per vessel bond requirement is, however, being relaxed, according to Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) deputy administrator for Planning Atty. Gloria Victoria J.Bañas.
“Operators could do away with the bond requirement as long as they could get a guarantee from oil firms that they will shoulder all expenses in cases of oil spills,” Bañas said.
“Operators may also secure a surety bond from the Government Service Insurance System if they find it difficult to source the P5-million cash bond that will be held in escrow by the Marina until all their ships are complaint,” she added.
“But if operators cannot not get any of the required, they will have no choice but to produce the amount,” Bañas said.
Marina is implementing the bond and penalty system on all single-hull operators to ensure there are ample funds to finance clean-up operations in cases of oil spills pending the implementation of Oil Pollution Management Fund.
Tanker operators claim the system is too harsh.
The Philippine Petroleum Sea Transport Association and the Association of Tanker Operators of the Philippines said the penalty should only be imposed if the vessel is laden. Empty tankers or barges pose no oil spill risk, they noted.
They claimed the penalty will make the industry uncompetitive, as the amount already represents about 60% of the average time charter rate.
Instead, the operators proposed a callable bond for P5 million per company from the Pioneer Insurance & Surety Corp in favor of Marina.
Marina has extended compliance to double-hull requirements to February next year from April 30 to give operators time to either acquire compliant vessels or convert existing ones. The extension is only applicable to companies that can show proof that compliance is forthcoming.