Twenty-five years ago this week, the 1992 Protocols to the 1969 Civil Liability Convention and 1971 Fund Convention entered into force, establishing the 1992 Fund and creating a new international liability and compensation regime which offered far higher limits and greater protection against the economic and environmental consequences of major oil spills than its predecessor.
Despite the success of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund, 1971 (1971 Fund) since its establishment in 1978, it had become clear that the amount of compensation available was insufficient to cover the damage incurred by a major incident. In light of this and of other experience gained under the original regime, IMO Member States decided to amend the Conventions by adopting two Protocols in 1992. These two Protocols entered into force on 30 May 1996 and, with double the amount of compensation available under the new regime (SDR 135 million), the vast majority of 1971 Fund Member States made the move to join the 1992 Fund by acceding to or ratifying the two Protocols.
Over the past 25 years the 1992 Fund has dealt with almost 50 incidents, including the Nakhodka, Erika, Prestige and Hebei Spirit, paid some £416 million in compensation and seen its membership continue to grow to 120 States as of May 2021. The amount of compensation available under the Fund was increased further in 2003 to SDR 203 million and with the optional added tier of the Supplementary Fund Protocol, which entered into force in 2005, the IOPC Funds of today is in a strong position to cover the costs of all admissible claims for pollution damage in the event that a major incident involving a tanker arises.
The international liability and compensation regime for tanker spills has proved very successful and has even been used as a model for other compensation regimes, including the HNS Fund which is expected to be established soon and will provide compensation for damage in connection with the carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by sea.