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Legal Committee (LEG) – 99th session, 16 - 20 April 2012

April 20, 2012

Limits of liability for shipping raised with adoption of amendments to 1996 Protocol to the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims
 
Amendments to increase the limits of liability in the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims by 51 per cent were adopted by the Legal Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), when the Committee met for is 99th session.
 
Guidelines on dealing with crimes at sea to be developed
The Committee overwhelmingly agreed to develop guidelines on the collation and preservation of evidence following an allegation of a serious crime having taken place on board a ship or following a report of a missing person from a ship; and guidelines on the pastoral and medical care of victims.
 
The decision to include this as a new output on the Committee’s agenda follows the adoption by the IMO Assembly of a resolution on the subject (A.1058(27)), which invited States to submit proposals to the Committee.  
 
During discussion on the guidelines to be developed, delegations expressed the views that:
 
• the guidelines should cover all types of ships, not only passenger ships;
• they should take into account the fact that more than one State might have jurisdiction;
• they should ensure co-operation between States with the primary investigative role and other interested States and investigative agencies such as specialist police units;
• the rights of suspects should be respected in line with human rights conventions and should take into account issues such as due process;
• possible overlap with the Code of International Standards and Recommended Practices for a Safety Investigation into a Marine Casualty or Marine Incident (Casualty Investigation Code) should be avoided; and
• no liability should be attributed by the guidelines to the master, officers or crew should it be found that any evidence be lacking or contaminated through inexperience in collecting evidence.
 
The issue should also be brought to the attention of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), given possible implications for training.  
 
Liability issues from offshore oil exploration further discussed
At the IMO Council’s request, the Committee revisited the issue of liability and compensation connected with transboundary pollution damage from offshore oil exploration and exploitation activities. It recognized that bilateral and regional arrangements are the most appropriate way to address the matter and agreed that there was no compelling need to develop an international regime on the subject.   
 
The Committee agreed, accordingly, to inform the Council that it wished to further analyse the liability and compensation issues, with the aim of developing guidance to assist States interested in pursuing bilateral or regional arrangements, without, however, revising the Organization’s strategic plan.
 
The debate on the issue follows the much publicized Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010 as well as the 2009 incident on the Montara offshore oil platform, located in the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone, in which a well blew out, leading to a significant oil spill. 
 
Delegations were invited to submit documents on this subject to the Committee's next session, under the agenda item "Any other business".
 
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