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Wednesday, October 17, 2018


A passionate presentation given by Mr George Tsavliris on behalf of the International Salvage Union at CleanSeas Conference in London on 12 June illustrated that even with formally agreed action by the IMO, the places of refuge issue is still an emotive subject.

Following a legally focused and thought provoking presentation by Lord Donaldson, Mr. Tsavliris referred to the Castor incident explaining that port states need to change their perceived roles as ‘pollution-victims’ and adopt the concept of safe havens.  In the future, Mr Tsavliris said officials and states may arguably be held liable for damages subsequent to an incident similar to the Castor.

Delegates endorsed Mr. Tsavliris’s views and Q/A from the floor illustrated the concept had many supporters within the UK maritime industry.  This was highlighted by presentations from Robin Middleton of the Maritime Coastguard Agency and Alec Bilney of the International Chamber of Shipping.  However, some major questions such as the States’ obligation to the neighbouring country and the ships’ crew need to be addressed. The question was raised regarding the potential for the incorporation of the places of refuge concept within international emergency plans or even the possibility of local agencies such as community Councils being given the power to decide on navigational matters and places of refuge.

Even after having been incorporated into the European Union and the IMO systems, the implementation of the places of refuge and port States’ obligations still appears to have a very strong drive from the industry, regulators and environmental organisations.