IOPC updates ongoing tanker incidents

Nov 08 2019

At last month’s meeting of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC) at the IMO, information was provided to the 1992 Fund Executive Committee on all open incidents involving the IOPC Funds.

In particular, recent developments in the following incidents were reported. 

‘Prestige’ (Spain, November, 2002) - In accordance with the December, 2018 judgment of the Spanish Supreme Court, the 1992 Fund paid €27.2 mill into Court and has retained €800,000 to pay those claimants with legal actions pending before the French courts, and €4,800 to pay the Portuguese Government. 

The Fund has also provided the Court with a list of the amounts due to the claimants in the Spanish legal proceedings, which has not yet been distributed by the Court. 

The Court of Cassation in France has ruled that the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) cannot avail itself of the defence of sovereign immunity in this case. As a result, the case will go back to the Court of First Instance in Bordeaux to consider the merits of the claims of the French Government and the Fund against ABS.  

‘Hebei Spirit’ (Republic of Korea, December, 2007) - All claims for this incident have been finalised by either mediation or judgment and a total of KRW432.9 bill has been awarded. The Fund has paid KRW107.3 bill in compensation to the South Korean Government.

Following the conclusion of a bilateral agreement, the Fund paid the balance of compensation due totalling KRW27, 486,198,196 for it to pay all remaining claims. 

In return, the Government provided safeguards the Fund needs to be protected from further actions in the Courts against the 1992 Fund. 

The Fund has brought a recourse action in South Korea to recover a proportion of the amounts paid for this incident from Samsung Heavy Industries’ (SHI) Limitation Fund.

In April, 2019, the Fund made an additional payment of KRW22 bill to the shipowner’s insurer, the Skuld Club, and set aside a balance of KRW3.4 bill to be paid when the legal proceedings have been concluded.

Since this major incident, which led to around 128,000 claims for compensation, is now drawing to a close, the Director has announced that a meeting will soon be held with key parties to discuss the lessons learned from the case.  

‘Agia Zoni II’ (Greece, September, 2017) - In total, the Fund received 373 claims amounting to €94.64 mill and $175 000 and has already made compensation payments of €11.27 mill in respect of this incident. 

The Fund’s experts have assessed 312 claims, 307 of which were approved. 

It has also been served with legal proceedings filed at the Piraeus Court of First Instance by two of the clean-up contractors for the balance of their unpaid claims amounting to €30.26 mill and €24.74 mill, respectively.

Proceedings against the 1992 Fund were also filed by 78 fisherfolk, claiming €2.18 mill. 

Two separate investigations into the cause of the incident have been carried out: the first concluded that it occurred as a result of an explosion and the second concluded that it resulted from the opening of the seawater ballast valves and the undue opening of the cargo tank seals or manifolds, which could only have been done from on board the vessel. 

In July, 2018, the Fund was informed that the district attorney was also investigating the terms of the granting of the anti-pollution services agreement to the clean-up contractors. 

The IOPC Director reported that whilst there were peculiarities in this incident, it was too early to draw conclusions and that he would monitor the incident and report any developments to the Committee at its next session.

‘Trident Star’ (Malaysia, August, 2016) - Claims for pollution damage arising from this incident exceed the 1992 CLC limit applicable to the vessel.

Therefore, the Fund is liable to pay compensation in respect of this incident and the 1992 Fund Executive Committee has authorised the Director to do so. 

However, the amounts paid by the Fund should be recovered from the shipowner’s insurer under the Small Tanker Oil Pollution Indemnification Agreement (STOPIA) 2006.  

‘Bow Jubail’ (Netherlands, June, 2018) - In November, 2018, the Rotterdam District Court decided that the vessel’s shipowner had not proved that the tanker did not contain residues of persistent oil at the time of the incident and that, therefore, the ‘Bow Jubail’ qualified as a ship as per Article I(1) of the 1992 Civil Liability Convention (CLC). 

The shipowner has since appealed to the Court of Appeal in The Hague.

Since it is likely that the total pollution damage will exceed the limit that would apply to the ship under the 1992 CLC, the Fund Convention could apply to this incident. 

A decision by the Court of Appeal is expected this month.  


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