BIMCO sees problems in US spill law

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 September, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 September, 1993, 12:00am

THE Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) has reiterated its grave concern over ship owners being exposed to unlimited liability under the US Oil Pollution Act '90 (OPA 90).

BIMCO also expressed concern that owners also would be exposed to P&I Clubs direct actions for claims made against them.

''The new liability regimes as enshrined in OPA 90 will put the whole principle of mutuality, so deeply rooted in the maritime industry, at risk,'' it said.

In OPA 90 there was no element of sharing of liabilities for oil spills as owners would be held solely responsible in the event of an oil spill catastrophe, BIMCO said.

Under the 1971 Fund Convention, owners may be indemnified by the International Oil Pollution Convention (IOPC) Fund, financed by contributions levied on the cargo interests, for a part of the total amount of their liabilities under the 1969 CLC Convention, it said.

In BIMCO's view, the insurance capacity on the world market was limited, which was an important factor why the P&I Clubs could not participate in the issuance of certificates of financial responsibility of OPA 90 as it presently stands.

According to a study entitled Impact of Oil and related Chemicals and Wastes on the Marine Environment, the total oil pollution from shipping activities had fallen by 63 per cent from 1981 to 1989.

It points to the increasing evidence that oil pollution from land-based sources had been so far underestimated.

A top-priority recommendation of the study was that ''controls of discharges of oil from sources other than shipping, for example from land-based sources, should be strengthened where necessary within appropriate national and international systems''.

The study, by the United Nations Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Oil Pollution (GESAMP), is an important contribution to the industry's endeavours to change the public perception of shipping as a major polluter.

BIMCO urged GESAMP to produce a study which identified the sources of all pollutants of marine environment, not just oil, in order that actions may be taken to preserve the marine ecosystem.

It said experience had demonstrated that a number of flag states did not possess the technical expertise to ensure that their fleets met international standards.

The flag state implementation sub-committee, established under the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), has an important function to oversee that flag states conform to standards under international conventions.

It was crucial that a neutral body was given the powers to audit the flag state administrations to ensure they were capable of exercising the necessary control, and BIMCO therefore supported the discussions taking place in IMO.

BIMCO said port state control was a valuable instrument to identify the sub-standard ships, which may have escaped the attention of flag state administrations.

It said BIMCO was in general in support of the plans to establish a harmonised port state control regime on a worldwide scale.

It emphasised the importance of ensuring an even level of competence for port state control inspectors was established and guidelines for operational control to ensure that surveyors did not interfere with normal shipboard operations.

when carrying out operational control.