Involvement of industry

When an oil spill occurs, the sharing of responsibility between the shipowner, the crew provider, the charterer, the cargo owner, the ship-builder, the worksites involved, the classification society which checked the work, and the authority in charge of the salvage attempt is often complex. Once a ship is loaded with oil or petroleum products, the cargo can change owners several times during a journey. It is therefore difficult to identify the responsible party and it is often very tempting to point to the most visible and solvent participant: the oil company involved.

Oil groups have therefore invested in prevention by creating vetting units, in charge of assessing the quality of chartered vessels. They possess contingency plans for accidental pollution coming under the responsibility of their safety and environmental management teams. These plans dictate the roles and responsibilities of each party when confronted with an accident, in order to contain and recover the spill as quickly as possible and to limit the consequences, by providing the response authorities with the group’s intervention resources.

Involvement of industry


More information

Complexity of the organisation of oil transportation and liability during the Prestige accident

The problem of liability

The highly international nature of the different participants in maritime transportation in no way simplifies the process of identifying the legally liable party in the event of an oil spill.

The International Maritime Organization, which served as a basis for establishing the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds), therefore introduced the principle of objective responsibility of the vessel itself, independent of all notion of fault or blame. The simple fact that a tanker is a source of pollution gives victims access to the IOPC Funds, and therefore access to the possibility of compensation.