Governments failed to agree way forward on encouraging consistency in the application of the CLC and Fund Conventions

Overview

The governing bodies of the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Funds met in London from 30 October to 2 November 2017. Donald Chard, consultant to BIMCO, reports from the meeting where BIMCO also introduced the new specialist RESPONSCON agreements.

A paper, prepared by the Director of the IOPC Funds with input from IMO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Group of P&I Clubs (International Group), was presented outlining possible options to address concerns, raised by the shipping industry at the previous session, about the lack of consistency by States Party in the application of the 1992 CLC and 1992 Fund Convention. Options were put forward setting out proposals for non-binding guidance by the Funds; a unified interpretation of the Conventions by IMO, which would have greater legal weight; revision of the 1992 CLC and Fund Convention; and outreach activities to train and inform parties in the application and implementation of the treaties.

At the start of a full debate, the Spanish delegation questioned the rationale and whether there were sufficient grounds to support a lack of consistency or whether this was a “subjective assessment” arising from concerns expressed about recent national court decisions by two observer delegations. 

There was little enthusiasm for revising the Conventions with the delegation from India alone in expressing support for such a course of action. However, there was a lack of agreement about the way forward with many differing views expressed. While there was some support for IMO to develop a unified interpretation of the Conventions, other delegations were concerned that the issues for determination had not been clearly or precisely identified. 

Following a discussion that lasted for more than two hours, the Chairman concluded that in the absence of consensus on the way forward, no decision could be taken. However, the door was left open for delegations to come back on the issue at a future session. 

It was agreed to revise the policy on the admissibility of claims for losses by employees placed on short-time working or made redundant as the result of a spill incident. Employees’ losses have, to date, been seen as too far removed and not, therefore, eligible for compensation. Many delegations spoke on the issue and all, including ICS and the International Group, supported the principle that compensation should be paid in cases where a causative link could be demonstrated between the incident and the losses arising. The change was agreed. The Director of the IOPC Funds will present a document setting out appropriate assessment criteria at the next session.

Approval was given to draft Guidelines for claims for environmental damage. The document will be published as a new addition to the Claims Information Pack.

In an intervention by BIMCO, delegates’ attention was drawn to the availability of the new RESPONESCON and US RESPOSECON contracts for spill clean-up incidents. The agreements, developed in conjunction with the International Spill Control Organization (ISCO) and in consultation with the International Group, International Salvage Union (ISU), International Tanker Owners’ Pollution Federation (ITOPF) and the Spill Control Association of America (SCAA), are for use between spill responders and a range of counter parties potentially including governmental and regulatory authorities.

It was noted that arrangements had been made for a two-day HNS Workshop, jointly organised by IMO and IOPC Funds, to be held in London in April 2018. Canada reported progress being made towards ratification of the Convention with reporting requirements now in place for receivers of HNS cargoes in Canada.

Incidents involving the 1992 Fund were reviewed. Details of a recent occurrence were reported concerning the 1,597 GT product tanker Agia Zoni II which sank on 10 September close to Salamina island in the designated Piraeus anchorage in the Saronikos Gulf.

In response to applications from the Iberoamerican Law Institute (IIDM) and the Sea Alarm Foundation, it was agreed that both organisations would be granted observer status

The session also dealt with financial reporting including submission of oil reports, contributions and investments, appointment of the Audit Body and joint Investment Advisory Body, budgetary issues and secretariat and administrative matters.

The next session of the IOPC Funds will take place in London during the week of 30 April 2018.  

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