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Friday, October 19, 2018

Compensation and liability – the need for international regulation

We have an international oil spill compensation system that works, so do not destroy it through regional or national schemes - this was one of the main messages that INTERTANKO put over in Brussels this week at the Madariaga European Foundation's seminar entitled "Maritime Pollution in a criminal law framework – new perspectives in European Law, how to combat ship source pollution". 

The Association's Assistant Director, Kristian Fuglesang, emphasised that tanker shipping is not without risk, but referred to its generally good record. Despite some well-known and regrettable accidents, the amount of pollution caused by tankers has been substantially reduced over the last decade as the industry pursues its commitment to quality and continuous improvement. Elimination of substandard shipping remains one of the shipping industry's main goals.  

The system for compensation for oil pollution damage has generally worked well - victims have received prompt compensation without prolonged litigation. The strict liability principle of the system means that there is liability regardless of fault. The system works, and the major complaint has been over the amounts of compensation available, although this has been addressed through the 50% increase in limits as well as through the introduction of the voluntary third tier.

 Fuglesang stressed the industry's support for the international oil spill compensation system and encouraged further ratification of it. He warned against a re-opening of the system and encouraged ratification of the 1996 Bunker Spills Convention and the 1996 Hazardous and Noxious Cargoes (HNS) Convention. He referred to the general slow ratification process which has had the effect i.a. of increasing the pressure for unilateral regulation – which is undesirable in this field where there is a strong need for international standards and agreements. 

The trend towards criminalisation of the parties involved in accidental oil pollution and treating seafarers as criminals is not the right approach, he continued. There is a need for adequate and affordable oil waste reception facilities as well as proper contingency plans to help ships in need, including places of refuge. 

The conclusion underlined the need for internationally agreed standards and procedures, as well as uniform and efficient implementation. 

The presentation can be viewed on INTERTANKO's web site at: 

Contact: Kristian R. Fuglesang