17 November 2008 17:09 [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
LONDON (ICIS news)--Most of the European chemical industry finds itself in a difficult position with Reach, the EU’s new registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals policy.
The Reach IT system has shuddered almost to a halt under the weight of pre-registrations for the scheme – these are the free data entries that firms can make showing that they want to continue selling the named chemical in the EU.
The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, and its new chemicals agency (ECHA) had expected only a couple of hundred thousand substance pre-registrations at the most – covering some 30,000-40,000 chemicals.
The system, however, has been inundated.
By early Friday (14 November) 1.2m pre-registrations had been received, the ECHA says. It expects about 500 bulk pre-registrations and 10,000 on-line registrations a day but for those numbers to ramp up over the next two weeks.
The traffic across its Reach IT system has increased continuously from mid-September with the current number of users hitting currently about 8,000 a day. The IT system tends to time-out when the number of concurrent users hits about 2,000.
Some in industry having to deal with the consequences of the over-loaded system are complaining loudly but others are strangely quiet.
The Reach scheme is such a political hot potato, it seems, that the industry doesn’t want to be heard complaining too loudly.
Too much noise about not being able to comply with this, the earliest stages of Reach, would hardly put sophisticated makers of sometimes hazardous chemicals in a good light.
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Pre-registration runs for six months from the beginning of June this year: that is to 30 November.
The pre-registration system, however, particularly Reach IT, was not effectively up and running until six weeks into the pre-registration period.
The CBA in October called for a six-week extension of the pre-registration deadline given the initial delay and the time it was taking its members to gain access to the overloaded Reach IT platform.
“Reach IT clearly has major capacity problems,” chairman of the CBA Reach taskforce Melvyn White, and former president of the association, said after the ECHA had modified the system yet again to try to speed it up.
“There will inevitably be companies which, despite making every endeavour to complete the pre-registration process, will fail to make the 30 November deadline.
"They will suffer commercial and financial loss simply because of the inadequacy of Reach IT."
An update on 10 November has improved the system availability and performance, the ECHA believes, and more recently several system modules have been temporarily removed to try to help things along.
But too little action appears to have been taken too late.
Most of the European chemical industry prefers to keep quiet.
Reach has been voted into law and the pre-registration period can only be changed given agreement between the Commission, the European Parliament and representatives of the 27 EU member states, the Council of Ministers.
The pre-registration period also is followed by a range of other Reach steps that are written to a strict timetable.
But Whyte and the CBA, the members of which are mainly small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), are having none of that.
Whyte has appealed directly to Europe’s politicians warning of the potential collateral damage to the EU economy, the regulation itself and
These are topics the larger representative industry associations, currently at least, appear to want to fight shy of.
Most chemical companies want to be seen to be part of the process that makes Reach work rather than be seen to be putting a spanner in the works.
For the ECHA’s part, it simply has to soldier on. The system update notwithstanding, companies wishing to pre-register are being asked to do so outside peak hours. Bulk files appear to be getting through the pre-registration process first.
From Monday the agency was offering what it likes to call “enhanced assistance” to help those companies that need to pre-register. Questions can be submitted via a dedicated form on the ECHA’s website and companies can expect a call back.
Also from Monday the ECHA says it will publish on its home page the daily and total number of pre-registrations, at least until the midnight GMT deadline on 1 December.
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