Hague-Visby Rules

International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC) 1992. These effectively comprise the current regime. The conventions apply to “persistent oil” and exclude light oils such as gasoline, light diesel or kerosene. They only apply to Tankers and not to bunkers carried on dry cargo ships. Under the 1992 convention compensation is payable for expenses incurred in taking successful measures against a “grave and imminent threat of pollution” as well as dealing with actual polluting incidents. The conventions apply a strict liability regime against the tanker owner who can avoid liability only if it can prove that the pollution was directly due to the act or negligence of another party – war, sabotage, or negligence of authorities in maintaining navigational aids. If the incident occurs as a result of the owners actual recklessness or intent the limitation of liability is forfeit. All tankers carrying more than 2,000 tonnes of persistent oil as cargo must carry a certificate on board attesting that appropriate insurance cover is carried. The United States is not a signatory to the Conventions.  Instead it relies on its own enactment The Oil Pollution Act, OPA1990, which achieves the same ends although with similar although potentially higher penalties under some circumstances. Vessels entering US waters must carry a “Certificate of Financial Responsibility” (COFRs) issued by their insurers.  The IMO International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) 1973 and its protocol of 1978 cover regulations and liability relating to spillage of other pollutants including garbage and sewage. Until the early part of this century no generally recognised rules governed the distribution of liabilities between shipowners and shippers; the former being more or less free to set their own conditions of carriage.  Then in 1924, following an international convention in Brussels, a framework was agreed called the Hague Rules which subsequently received worldwide approval, being incorporated into most national legal systems (such as the UK and US Carriage of Goods by Sea Acts). An amended version called the Hague-Visby Rules 1968 covered developments in the industry, particularly containerisation, rather than any change in fundamental principle.  Most bills of lading used in international commerce incorporate either Hague or Hague-Visby Rules.