Official blog of Swansea University's IISTL, where we keep you up to date with the latest maritime and commercial legal news.
Things don’t go well for Shell. Dutch Court of Appeal finds it liable for pipeline spills in Nigeria
The Dutch Court of Appeal has held that Shell Nigeria is liable for two pipeline spills in Oruma and Goi that took place between 2004-05. Shell had argued that the spills were caused by sabotage, so-called ‘bunkering’. Under Nigerian law, which was applied pursuant to the Rome I Regulation, the company would not be liable if the leaks were the result of sabotage. However, the court said that Shell had not been able fully to prove the causes of the spill. Although the parent company Royal Dutch Shell was not found directly responsible, the court ordered it to install a leak detection system on the Oruma pipeline, the source of several spills in the case – a finding of great interest in the ongoing debate about tort and multi-national companies..
Another case involving pipeline spills in Nigeria, Okpabi v Royal Dutch Shell, came before the UK Supreme Court last June. A previous UK case involving spills in the Bodo area was settled in 2015.
Professor Simon Baughen was appointed as Professor of Shipping Law in September 2013 (previously Reader at the University of Bristol Law School). Simon Baughen studied law at Oxford and practised in maritime law for several years before joining academia. His research interests lie mainly in the field of shipping law, but also include the law of trusts and the environmental law implications of the activities of multinational corporations in the developing world. Simon's book on Shipping Law, has run to seven editions (soon to be eight) and is already well-known to academics and students alike as by far the most learned and approachable work on the subject. Furthermore, he is now the author of the very well-established practitioner's work Summerskill on Laytime. He has an extensive list of publications to his name, including International Trade and the Protection of the Environment, and Human Rights and Corporate Wrongs - Closing the Governance Gap. He has also written and taught extensively on commercial law, trusts and environmental law. Simon is a member of the Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law, a University Research Centre within the School of Law, and he currently teaches at Swansea on the LLM in:Carriage of Goods by Sea, Land and Air; Charterparties Law and Practice; International Corporate Governance.
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One thought on “Things don’t go well for Shell. Dutch Court of Appeal finds it liable for pipeline spills in Nigeria”
Hopefully, the court order directing Royal Dutch Shell to install a leak detection system on the Oruma pipeline will spur the IOCs to take steps to improve their operations in the Niger Delta region, particularly from an environmental perspective. In any event, the key question is this: why is the installation of a leak detection system on all pipelines not mandatory both from a regulatory perspective and as an operational requirement? Surely, Shell does not need to wait for a court to order it to install a leak detection system on its pipelines given the fact that “bunkering” is an issue in the Niger Delta region.