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New regulations on routes for transport vessels

A sub-committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) presented new regulations for sailing routes around Iceland last week to improve safety, especially aimed at transport vessels carrying potentially dangerous chemicals.

“This is a huge step, both for sea transport safety and for preventing major environmental accidents near Iceland’s coast, where there is very sensitive plant and animal life,” director general of the Icelandic Maritime Administration (MA) Hermann Gudjónsson told Fréttabladid.

The regulations state that vessels weighing 5,000 gross tons or less can take an inner route, closer to the shore, but larger ships and vessels transporting potentially dangerous or polluting cargo will have to take an outer route. Three areas around Iceland are off limits for all types of transport vessels.

Ships transporting containers are permitted to take the inner route as well as ships carrying light oil which evaporates quickly.

Halldór B. Nellet, the managing director of the operations division of the Icelandic Coast Guard, said he celebrates the new regulations, since the Coast Guard has often pointed out the dangers involved when transport vessels sail only a few miles off Iceland’s shore.

“We can also organize our supervision and emergency operations much better,” Nellet added.

According to a 2003 report on oil pollution by geographer Anna Fanney Gunnarsdóttir, the danger of pollution around Iceland’s southwestern coastline could be reduced by 50 percent when the outer route is taken.

Sixty transport vessels carrying oil sailed the inner route to Reykjavík’s harbor in Faxaflói Bay in 2006 while ten vessels took the outer route. They carried 800,000 tons of oil in total.

Last December a transport vessel ran ashore off Iceland’s southwestern coast, causing oil to leak into the ocean. Following the accident, calls were made for new regulations on sailing routes around Iceland.

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