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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lessons learned from the Prestige examined at ITOPF seminar in Madrid

The seminar on oil spill preparedness and compensation sponsored last week in Madrid by the International Tanker Operators Pollution Federation Ltd. (ITOPF) and INTERTANKO attracted more than 90 representatives from owners, oil companies, insurers, brokers, lawyers and other shipping-related associations.

The first half, chaired by Helmut Sohmen, Chairman of World-Wide Shipping Group and of ITOPF, covered fundamental ground with an ITOPF perspective on oil and chemical pollution response (ITOPF Technical Team Manager Hugh Parker), a P&I view on casualty response planning for pollution incidents (Steamship Mutual P&I Director Colin Williams) and recent developments on the international regime on liability and compensation for oil pollution damage (International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds Deputy Director Joe Nichols).

The material emphasised ITOPF’s advisory role in promoting effective response measures against the background of a framework of international conventions; it stressed the importance of carefully-planned action when dealing with an oil pollution incident using insurance, legal, pollution and other advisers where necessary; it examined the adequacy of the international liability and compensation regime, the latest additions thereto, and the sharing of the financial burden between shipowners and the oil industry.

The second half, chaired by Stephen Van Dyck, Chairman of Maritrans and of INTERTANKO, covered the aftermath of the Prestige incident from the viewpoint of Dr Enrique Lopez Veiga, Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs of Spain’s Galicia region; of Dr Peter Swift, Managing Director of INTERTANKO; and of a team from REPSOL who engineered the oil recovery from the Prestige wreck.

Enrique Lopez Veiga emphasised that it will take time to forget the Prestige – a good thing, he believes, since collective memory keeps us alert and able to stop a repetition of circumstances. Having roundly denounced all flags of convenience, he touched on ports of refuge; clean-up costs; the politicisation of pollution incidents; and he did not leave without a dig at the cargo owners and their responsibility for the existence of sub-standard ships. (Click hereto download a copy of the presentation – in Spanish only).

Peter Swift asked what lessons we have learned from the Prestige incident, pointing initially to the lesson that the industry’s performance is falling short of Society’s expectations and that Society’s tolerance for such accidents is effectively zero.

When dealing with politicians and the public, “it is difficult, if not quite impossible, to argue that existing laws and regulations are sufficient, or that it is enforcement which is needed, when quite clearly something has failed,” said Swift. He went on to emphasise that in the search for solutions, politicians and industry often have the same objectives, but they have different ways and methods of achieving them. For instance, industry will generally propose technical, operational or other procedural solutions, whereas politicians will seek political and legislative solutions to the problems as they perceive them … industry proposes global measures through the IMO, whereas politicians propose action through regional legislation and national powers.

The lessons learned? In recognising Society’s expectations of it, the tanker industry needs to have more transparency; to develop a greater trust with the public, the media and the politicians; to be even better prepared and coordinated in case of accidents; to participate in developing effective regulation and self-regulation; to recognise the need for continuous improvement from all parties. A copy of the presentation can be downloaded from the INTERTANKO web site

Last but by no means least came a fascinating presentation showing detail of the Euro105m operation, organised by Repsol, which recovered the bulk of the remaining oil in the wreck of the Prestige using floating aluminium storage containers the size of an eight storey building.

Contact: Bill Box