The April 2012 sessions of the governing bodies – In brief
The governing bodies of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) held meetings from Tuesday 24 April to Friday 27 April 2012 at the Headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London. 57 Member States, 2 observer States and 14 observer organisations attended concurrent sessions of the 1992 Fund Assembly, the 1992 Fund Executive Committee and the 1971 Fund Administrative Council. The sixth and seventh intersessional Working Groups also held their 4th and 1st meetings respectively. The key issues considered at the meetings are listed below.
Incidents involving the IOPC Funds
Alfa I (Greece, March 2012)
The 1992 Fund Executive Committee was informed of a new incident, the Alfa I (Greece), which had occurred in March 2012, resulting in the sad loss of life of the ship’s master and the spillage of an unknown quantity of oil, impacting some 13 kilometres along the shoreline of Elefsis Bay. The 1992 Fund has engaged experts to monitor the clean-up operations and gather information regarding the incident and the response. This is the first incident involving a Member State of the Supplementary Fund. However, the Executive Committee noted that it was unlikely that claims arising from the incident would exceed the limit under the 1992 Fund Convention.
Incidents in Nigeria: JS Amazing (Warri River, Delta State, June 2009) and MT Concep/MT Redfferm (Tin Can Island, Lagos, March 2009)
Reports were given in relation to the JS Amazing incident which had first been reported to the 1992 Fund Executive Committee in October 2011, and for which the time bar was approaching, as well as another incident, the MT Concep/MT Redfferm which had occurred in March 2009 at Tin Can Island, Lagos. The Director explained that the latter incident had been reported to the 1992 Fund in January 2012, and that, at the time of the sessions, no claims had been filed against the 1992 Fund and that time-bar provisions under the Conventions were also likely to apply to this incident very soon. The delegation of Nigeria provided further details on recent developments in the JS Amazing case regarding the investigations into the cause of the incident and the situation with regards to claims.
Hebei Spirit (Republic of Korea, December 2007)
Developments were reported in respect of the Hebei Spirit incident of 2007, which had led to the submission of nearly 129 000 individual claims, mainly from the Korean fishing sector. 91% of the claims submitted have been assessed and KRW 155 794 million has been paid by the Skuld Club. The 1992 Fund Executive Committee decided to maintain the level of payments at 35% of the assessed amount so as to avoid the risk of an overpayment situation, and to review this decision at its next session. In respect of legal proceedings, in January 2012, the Beijing Supreme Court had dismissed the action brought by the 1992 Fund against Samsung C&T Corporation (Samsung C&T) and Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI). The owner and the insurer of the Hebei Spirit have concluded a settlement agreement with Samsung C&T and SHI under which Samsung C&T and SHI would pay the amount of US$ 10 million to the owner and its insurers. In accordance with the agreement signed by the 1992 Fund and the ship’s interests in January 2009, the 1992 Fund had recently recovered 50% of the sum paid, ie US$ 5 million.
Plate Princess (Republic of Venezuela, May 1997)
The Director had received a communication from the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Kingdom informing him that a Supreme Tribunal judgement had been rendered to the effect that all appeals in respect of the legal proceedings taken in the Venezuelan courts in respect of the Plate Princess incident had been exhausted. The Director had been requested to notify Member States of this judgement for the purpose of expediting immediate payment of compensation to Venezuelan nationals. For this reason a session of the 1971 Fund Administrative Council had been convened at short notice. A lengthy debate took place in respect of this incident on Tuesday 24 April 2012. The 1971 Fund Administrative Council reconfirmed its instructions given in March 2011 and October 2011 to the Director not to make any payments in respect of this incident and to oppose any enforcement of the judgement on the basis of Article X of the 1969 CLC and Article 4, paragraph 5 of the 1971 Fund Convention on equal treatment of claimants. The Director has been instructed to conduct a further analysis on the legal basis for the 1971 Fund to refuse payment under Article X of the 1969 CLC and to examine the points raised by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela during the session in consultation with the Legal Affairs and External Relations Division of the IMO.
Contingency arrangements for the Director and senior Secretariat personnel
The Assembly supported a number of proposals made by the Director on contingency arrangements for the Director and senior Secretariat personnel, including the appointment of Mr Ranjit Pillai (Sri Lanka), to the position of Deputy Director. Mr Pillai will also continue in his current position at the IOPC Funds as Head of the Finance and Administration Department. The 1992 Fund Assembly was also informed of the appointment of Mr Matthew Sommerville (United Kingdom), formerly Technical Adviser/Claims Manager, to the position of Head of the Claims Department/Technical Adviser as of 8 March 2012.
A report was provided on the progress made since the October 2011 meetings on the administrative tasks necessary for setting up the Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) Fund. A demonstration of the HNS Finder, which contains the consolidated list of HNS as defined in Article 1.5 of the 2010 HNS Protocol, was carried out during the session.
Impact of European Council Regulation 267/2012 concerning restrictive measures against the Islamic Republic of Iran
The European Union had adopted a Regulation in March 2012 imposing sanctions on business conducted with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The International Group of P&I Clubs submitted an information document on the issue which was discussed at the 1992 Fund Assembly’s session. The delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran made a statement during the debate. The Assembly noted that irrespective of the EC Regulation, the CLC and Fund regime remained unchanged but instructed the Secretariat to monitor the situation and report back to the Assembly at its next session.
- A presentation was given of the online oil reporting system which was under development and being trialled by a number of Member States.
- The IOPC Funds Annual Report 2011 was distributed at the meetings.
- A presentation was given of the new IOPC Funds website which is expected to be launched in English, French and Spanish during 2012.
- The 1992 Fund Assembly decided to continue to run the IOPC Funds internship programme, which had successfully taken place the first time in November 2011. The programme will be open to a maximum of ten self-funded participants on an annual basis and will be known as the ‘IOPC Funds’ Short Course’.
- The Chairman of the joint Audit Body set out the work programme of the fourth Audit Body covering the period December 2011 to October 2014.
1992 Fund sixth intersessional Working Group – fourth meeting
The 1992 Fund sixth intersessional Working Group held its fourth meeting on 25 and 26 April 2012 under the chairmanship of Mr Volker Schöfisch (Germany). The Working Group has been considering issues in connection with the handling of large numbers of small claims lacking evidence of earnings. Agreement was reached on a ‘tool kit’ of suggested ways in which Member States could approach the handling of such claims. A draft text detailing those suggestions, together with a proposed revision to the text of the Claims Manual will be presented for Member States of the 1992 Fund Asssembly to consider at the October 2012 sessions. In respect of the issue of interim payments of compensation, the Director and the International Group of P&I clubs agreed to continue discussions and to present the results at the next meeting of the Working Group.
1992 Fund seventh intersessional Working Group – first meeting
The 1992 Fund seventh intersessional Working Group held its first meeting on 26 April 2012 under the chairmanship of Mrs Birgit Sølling Olsen (Denmark), who used the meeting to confirm the key questions that the Group should look to answer in order to fulfil its mandate. The Secretariat agreed to work with the relevant observer Organisations and Member States to gather additional information as regards industry practices and the use of vessels for storage. Members of the Working Group were encouraged to prepare for more detailed discussions at the Group’s next meeting.
The delegation of Panama officially offered to host the spring 2013 sessions of the IOPC Funds’ governing bodies in Panama City. The governing bodies will be invited to consider the invitation at their next sessions to be held during the week of 15 October 2012.
The week of 4-8 July 2012, which had been provisionally set aside for IOPC Funds’ meetings, will not be required.
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