On July 26 the “Wakashio” grounded off Mauritius, breaking up on 16 August. So far about 1200 tonnes of bunker fuel has been released into the sea. For Mauritius this is an environmental disaster.
Civil liability for bunker oil pollution falls under the Bunker Oil Pollution Convention 2001, to which Mauritius is a party. The good news is that under the Convention, the shipowner is strictly liable and there is mandatory insurance, with a direct right of action against the liability insurance, in this case the Japan P&I Club.
The bad news is that art. 6 provides that owners may limit their liability in accordance with the Convention for Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976 or as amended.
The 1996 Protocol, significantly increases the original limits in the 1976 Limitation Convention. However, it seems that Mauritius has not signed up to the 1996 Protocol.
Based on the gross tonnage of the vessel, apparently 101,932 tonnes, the limit for third-party claims including costs of prevention and clean up would be around $18m. Under the 1996 Protocol the limit would be $65m, based on the 2012 amendment to the LLMC 1996 limits, which entered into force in June 2015 and applied automatically unless objected to.
Had the oil spilled been from a laden oil tanker, the CLC and Fund regimes would have kicked in, with substantially higher limitation figures. Under the CLC the shipowner’s limitation figure would be around 65 million SDR, US $91.65 million, with the Fund’s limitation figure being 203 million SDR, US $ 324.3 million.