To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answers of 22 January 2003, Official Report, column 328W, on marine pollution, and 6 March 2003, Official Report, column 1170W, on naval hulls, why a compliance date of 2010 has been adopted by his Department; what planning has been carried out to meet that deadline; when he intends to invite tenders for new vessels; and how many vessels he intends to procure. 103699]
MARPOL (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973 and the Protocol of 1978) provides for the phased introduction of Double-hulled tankers. Whilst the convention does not apply to vessels owned or operated by a state and used only on Government noncommercial service, as is the case for the fleet of Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Oilers, it continues to be Ministry of Defence policy that, where practicable, we comply with Shipping Acts and associated Regulations. 2010 was selected as the target date for the earliest practicable Ministry of Defence compliance based on the Department's current plans for the progressive withdrawal of non-compliant, single-hulled vessels over the rest of this decade and their replacement with compliant equivalents. The first such compliant vessels, the Auxiliary Oilers RFA Wave Knight and RFA Wave Ruler, are due to enter service this spring.So far as future procurement is concerned, the Ministry of Defence established the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) project in July 2002 to consider, among other things, the Royal Navy's future requirement for oil resupply. The capability provided by this will be fully compliant with any environmental legislation in force at the time of entry into service but it is premature to decide exactly how this requirement will be met or when industry will be invited to bid.