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Monday, December 11, 2017

UNLAWFUL DETENTIONS OF TANKER CAPTAINS AND CREWS ULTIMATELY A THREAT TO OIL SUPPLY

The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO) is deeply concerned about the increasing tendency by nations to unlawfully detain tanker captains, and in some cases crews, for extended periods, following oil spill incidents.

The Association calls on all nations to handle marine accidents in conformity with the international conventions governing marine transportation and oil spill liability. Most states have ratified these conventions and implemented them in national law.

In 1996, INTERTANKO published the so-called US Ports and Waterways Safety Study, which focused on the safety in US ports and waterways. This study was endorsed by the United States Coast Guard and formed part of the background for the United States Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater’s Maritime Transportation System initiative. The Association also took a high profile in the case of the oil tanker Nissos Amorgos, which in 1997 went aground in the Maracaibo Channel in Venezuela, and several similar incidents. The Association, whose members, for example, transport over 65% of the oil that is imported to the United States, has continually expressed concern over the prolonged detention of the ships and the criminal prosecution of Masters and crew.

It is not INTERTANKO’s policy or role to interfere in the judicial processes of Sovereign States and in this case INTERTANKO notes that the decision is under appeal on the grounds that, amongst other things, much of the technical evidence was either misapprehended or ignored by the Court.

"As the case is on appeal I thus cannot comment on the particular details of the case but our industry is obviously following this case very closely" said the Association’s Managing Director, Mr. Svein Ringbakken.

It is well known that following the oil pollution incident of the Nissos Amorgos in the Channel of Lake Maracaibo on 28 February 1997, where two further vessels ran aground over a six-week period, INTERTANKO acted vigorously to ensure that the true facts of this case came into the public domain.

INTERTANKO continues to be concerned over the criminal prosecution of qualified and experienced seafarers involved in accidents for which the blame may lie with others, or in which their role does not reasonably warrant a criminal process.

As a general comment Mr. Ringbakken said "INTERTANKO recognises that a nation, state or province may bring criminal charges following an accident. The basic proposition is that while there may be in extreme circumstances, such a high degree of negligence on the part of the owner, officer, or crew member of the vessel as to justify the imposition of criminal penalties, the practice of certain jurisdictions is, however, counter-productive as it totally disregards treaty commitments entered into by the state and appear to let public pressure dictate the measures adopted and not the law."

The tanker industry provides an essential service in transporting energy from the producing areas and there is now widespread concern among quality operators that if the trend of detaining and prosecuting seafarers continues, we will have problems recruiting the best seafarers to take care of the oil cargoes. Tanker transportation is the primary means of transporting oil safely and efficiently around the globe - any practice which has an impact on tanker transportation will ultimately have an impact on oil supply.

INTERTANKO will shortly introduce a paper in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) calling for guidelines on the protection of masters and crew against unjustified detentions and prosecution.

INTERTANKO will invite the IMO to take note of the incidents where seafarers have been detained and to look at the governing principles in the international treaty regimes to assess how far national souverenity may be exercised in this field without rendering international treaty obligations meaningless.

The IMO will also be invited to consider measures to improve on the situation in the short term by a MSC Circular to member governments inviting adherence to international treaties and IMO/ILO instruments.

Finally, the industry will invite the IMO to consider developing a Code of Practice to assist flag states and coastal states to provide better protection of seafarers involved in maritime casualties.

For further information, please contact:

Svein Ringbakken
Phone: +1 202 262 0147
E-mail: LegalandDocumentary@intertanko.com

or

Sally Woulfe
Phone: +47 22 12 26 82
E-mail: sally.woulfe@intertanko.com