The Prestige - IMO statement
The Prestige incident has been followed closely by IMO since events began
to unfold some days ago. The IMO Secretariat established contact immediately
with the authorities of Spain and with the Flag State authorities of the Bahamas.
As in any situation such as this, the prime concerns of IMO have been for the
safety of human life and the protection of the marine environment. Despite the
adverse conditions, no human life has been lost in this incident and the search
and rescue authorities of Spain deserve much credit for dealing with this matter
promptly and effectively and in accordance with the provisions of IMO instruments,
in particular the International
Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.
concerning the safety of the ship's crew had been received, the focus of attention
turned to the protection of the marine environment. The Spanish authorities
were advised that any assistance which the Organization might be able to offer
would be made available on their request.
The Prestige was subject to a comprehensive regime of safety and
environmental regulations, including those of the main IMO Conventions, i.e.
the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS)
and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships
(MARPOL), to both of which
the Flag State of the Bahamas is a Party.
IMO's main concern
now is to establish, as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, exactly what
went wrong in this case so that the effectiveness of the regulatory framework
that IMO has put in place can be properly assessed and action taken, if need
be, to rectify any weaknesses or deficiencies identified. Under the provisions
of SOLAS and MARPOL, the Flag State Administration is required to conduct an
investigation into serious casualties. The Flag State authorities of the Bahamas
are therefore urged to expedite their investigation into the incident and provide
IMO with their findings, conclusions and recommendations.
of single-hull tankers
The revised MARPOL Convention contains a
timetable by which single-hull tankers will be phased-out in favour of double-hull
ships. The Prestige was a single-hull tanker built in 1976, that
is before the MARPOL Convention (which had been adopted in 1973) entered into
force in 1982. In April 2001, the Parties to the MARPOL Convention agreed to
accelerate the timetable for phasing out existing single-hull tankers in a revised
regulation 13G of that Convention. According to the revised
regulation, which entered into force internationally in September 2002,
single-hull tankers built in 1976 would be required to be scrapped by 2005.
Survey and inspection
In addition to their routine annual and other surveys, since 1995 all tankers
and bulk carriers aged five years and over have been subject to a specially
enhanced inspection programme which is intended to ensure that any deficiencies
- such as corrosion or wear and tear resulting from age or neglect - are detected.
Guidelines on enhanced surveys on tankers and bulk carriers are contained in
IMO Assembly resolution A.744(18), which was adopted in November 1993 and has
been subsequently amended. In 1994 it was given mandatory status under the SOLAS
In the aftermath of the incident involving the fully laden tanker Castor which,
in December 2000, developed a structural problem in the Mediterranean Sea, IMO
Secretary-General William O'Neil suggested that the time had come for the Organization
to undertake, as a matter of priority, a global consideration of the problem
of places of refuge for disabled vessels and adopt any measures required to
ensure that, in the interests of safety of life at sea and environmental protection,
coastal States reviewed their contingency arrangements so that such ships are
provided with assistance and facilities as might be required in the circumstances.
Following a decision
by IMO's Maritime Safety Committee that, at present, the issue should be considered
from the operational safety point of view, the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation
has prepared two draft Assembly resolutions which are for approval by the MSC
early next month. They include a set of Guidelines which state clearly what
actions should be taken by ships' Masters, coastal States and Flag States in
cases where ships are in need of assistance. They also recommend the establishment
by coastal States of Maritime Assistance Services to be mobilized in relevant
cases. They have been designed to provide a framework by which Governments will
be able to assess each case on its merits and make the most appropriate decisions.
As a Party to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response
and Co-operation, 1990 (OPRC),
Spain has established a national system for dealing with pollution incidents,
either nationally or in co-operation with other countries. The Organization
is aware that the system is regularly tested through periodic exercises. And
although Spain is well prepared, a pollution incident of this magnitude requires
international assistance which, in accordance with the provisions of OPRC, Spain
has obtained from its fellow European countries.
Although IMO is primarily concerned with the safety of shipping and the prevention
of marine pollution, the Organization has also introduced regulations covering
liability and compensation for
damage that establish a system by which the victims of pollution caused by ships
can be compensated.
Liability and compensation
for spills of oil from tankers are covered by two complementary legal regimes
adopted by IMO, the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution
Damage, 1992 and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International
Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992.
in 2000, the Legal Committee of IMO adopted amendments to raise the limits of
compensation payable to victims of pollution by oil from oil tankers by 50.37
percent. These will enter into force on 1 November 2003.
Although the IOPC
Fund was established under Conventions adopted under the auspices of IMO, it
is a completely independent legal entity with its own secretariat (www.iopcfund.org).
IMO - the International
Maritime Organization - is the United Nations Specialized Agency with responsibility
for the safety of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
Web site: www.imo.org
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