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25 October 2006
The adoption of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage is expected to fill a gap in the international regime for compensation of victims of bunker oil spills. The convention was adopted in March 2001 by a diplomatic conference arranged by the International Maritime Organization.
The convention will enter into force one year after the date on which it has been ratified by 18 states (including five states whose combined gross tonnage is no less than 1 million). Nine states had ratified the convention as of March 1 2006. Norway signed the convention on September 26 2002 with a reservation of ratification.
On March 24 2006 the Ministry of Justice issued a consultation paper proposing to introduce new statutory provisions on the implementation of the convention in Chapter 10 of the Maritime Code. The comment period ended on June 15 2006. The ministry expects that Norway will ratify the convention during 2007.
The idea behind a liability regime for bunker pollution is to increase the likelihood of compensation for public and private losses incurred as a result of spills from ships which are not covered by the Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage 1992.
The Civil Liability Convention, which is implemented in Chapter 10 of the code, includes provisions on liability and insurance in respect of oil pollution damage. The convention covers spills from seagoing vessels built or adapted to carry oil in bulk; it applies where a vessel actually carries oil in bulk as cargo (and during subsequent voyages), unless it is shown that no residue of oil remains onboard. If a ship falls within the scope of the convention, the convention will also cover bunker oil spill from the ship.
Under the convention, liability is strict and channelled to the registered owner of the ship. Liability is limited and the registered owner must insure its potential liability.
Oil Spill Intelligence Report data shows that, even for larger spills, the number of non-tanker spills is significantly greater than the number of tanker spills falling under the scope of the convention.
The Bunkers Convention imposes strict liability for pollution damage caused by bunker oil onboard or originating from ships.
Pursuant to Article 1(3) of the convention, liability rests with:
In contrast, strict liability attaches only to the registered owner of the ship under the Civil Liability Convention.
Under the Bunkers Convention, shipowners shall maintain insurance or other financial security for ships having a gross tonnage over 1,000, if the ships are registered in a state that is party to the convention. The implementation of this compulsory insurance is expected to improve claimants' prospects of full recovery of losses. Claims may be made directly against insurers.
The Bunkers Convention includes no provisions on the limitation of liability. Liability for bunker spills will thus be regulated by the rules of the Convention on Limitations of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976, as amended by the 1996 protocol and implemented in Chapter 9 of the code.
For further information please contact Hågen Hansen or Gaute Gjelsten or Trond Eilertsen at Wikborg, Rein & Co by telephone (+47 22 82 75 00) or by fax (+47 22 82 75 01) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org).
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