Better deal for pollution victims in prospect as IMO Diplomatic Conference gets underway

International Conference on the Establishment of a Supplementary Fund
for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage: 12 - 16 May 2003

IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil has stressed the importance of ensuring just compensation for victims of oil pollution worldwide in his opening remarks to the International Conference on the Establishment of a Supplementary Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage.

The aim is to supplement the compensation available under the 1992 Fund Convention by the creation of a protocol to it which would provide an additional, voluntary, third tier of compensation in the form of an optional fund. Participation in this optional fund will be open to all States Parties to the 1992 Fund Convention.

Mr O'Neil said "The optional or voluntary nature of the supplementary fund is a special feature of the protocol, intended to cater for those States that wish to remain covered by the current liability and compensation regime but which may not at present see the need for increased limits of compensation. The voluntary nature of the prospective protocol should not, however, obscure the fact that it is intended to enhance the availability of compensation for oil pollution damage worldwide and not just apply to a particular region or regions."

Mr. O'Neil said the proposal to establish a supplementary fund reflected the views of the international community, and in particular of the Parties to the 1992 Fund Convention, that there was a need to ensure that compensation to victims of oil pollution damage continues to meet the standards of adequacy and equity expected from the highly successful global regime created by the operation of the Civil Liability and Fund Conventions.

Election of Officers
The following were elected as Officers of the Conference:

President
His Excellency Mr. Mohammed Belmahi, Morocco

Vice-Presidents
Capt. Marcelo Gustavo Genne, Argentina
Ms Brigit Solling Olsen Denmark
Her Excellency Mrs Nancy Kirui, Kenya
Her Excellency Ms Jean L. Kekedo, Papua New Guinea
Mr Abduljabbar A. Saifaldeen, Qatar

Chairman, Committee of the Whole
Mr. Alfred Popp, Canada

Vice-Chairmen of the Committee of the Whole
Capt. Luis Diaz, Venezuela
Prof. Chai Lee-Sik, Republic of Korea

Photographs of Mr. Belmahi, Mr. Popp and Mr. O'Neil are available on request.

Notes:
The 1969 International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC), and the 1971 International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, (the Fund Convention, which established the IOPC Fund), ensure that compensation is available for victims of oil pollution from ships. The CLC places liability on the shipowner up to a set limit and requires the shipowner to take out insurance against such claims. If an accident at sea results in pollution damage which exceeds the compensation available under the CLC, additional compensation is available through the IOPC Fund, which is financed by contributions by oil receivers. The compensation regime as a whole thereby ensures that the burden of compensation is spread between shipowner and cargo interests.

The 1992 Protocols to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC), 1969 and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (Fund Convention) 1971 replaced the original Conventions.

In the wake of the Nakhodka oil tanker incident in 1997 off Japan and the Erika oil tanker incident off the coast of France in December 1999, the IMO Legal Committee in October 2000 adopted amendments to the 1992 Protocols to the CLC and Fund Convention which will raise the limits of compensation payable by some 50 per cent to 89.77 million Special Drawing Rights (SDR) for a ship over 140,000 gross tonnage under the CLC and 203 million SDR payable by the IOPC Fund. These amendments will enter into force on 1 November 2003.

For a number of States, however, even these proposed increases were considered to be still too low. A European proposal for the establishment of a fund which would provide compensation over and above that generated by the 1992 Civil Liability and Fund Conventions whenever an oil pollution incident occurred in European waters was brought to the attention of the IOPC Fund Assembly, which in April 2000 decided to set up an Intersessional Working Group to further consider the matter. The Working Group met for three sessions (in July 2000 and in March and June 2001) and recommended the establishment of a supplementary fund, to provide compensation over and above that currently available under the 1992 Civil Liability/Fund regime, thus in essence creating a third tier of compensation for pollution damage caused by oil spills at sea. This supplementary fund will not be limited geographically to Europe but will cover oil spills wherever they occur.

The text of the draft protocol was approved by the sixth session of the IOPC Fund Assembly in October 2001 and submitted to the Secretary-General of IMO. At its 84th session, in April 2002, the IMO Legal Committee approved the draft text, prior to its submission to the current conference.

The IOPC Funds and IMO
Although the IOPC Funds were established under Conventions adopted under the auspices of IMO, they are independent legal entities with their own Directors and own Assemblies.

Unlike IMO, the IOPC Funds are not United Nations agencies and are not part of the UN system. They are intergovernmental organizations outside the United Nations, but follow procedures which are similar to those of the United Nations.

To become a member of the 1992 Fund, a State must accede to the 1992 Protocols to the Civil Liability Convention and the Fund Convention by depositing a formal instrument of accession with the Secretary-General of IMO. These Conventions should be incorporated into the national law of the State concerned.

Further information can be found on the IOPC Funds website at http://www.iopcfund.org/

Special Drawing Rights Conversion Rates
The daily conversion rates for Special Drawing Rights (SDR) can be found on the International Monetary Fund website at www.imf.org under "IMF Finances".

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IMO
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: http://www.imo.org/

For further information please contact:
Lee Adamson, Senior External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3153 (media@imo.org)
or Natasha Brown, External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3274 (media@imo.org).