Finally…. SI Can Now Pursue Compensation over Oil Spills

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SOLOMON Islands can now pursue compensation over recent oil spills in the country.

This followed the country’s recent accession to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (‘Bunkers Convention’).

A Government statement said the country’s accession to the convention is critical for pursuing compensation from overseas ship owners and insurers.

Two foreign vessels spilled tonnes of oil into local waters during their trips here to pick up bauxite and logs. The first incident was in 2019 when a bulk carrier run aground and spilled oil into the waters and coasts of Rennell island. The second was last month at Graciosa Bay in Temotu where another bulker carrier deliberately spilled oil into the bay when it was there to collect logs.

According to the statement, the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) received the instrument of accession to the convention on 15 October 2020 from Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade Jeremiah Manele.

“The Convention was entered into force for Solomon Islands on 15 January 2021,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, a detailed environmental damage assessment commissioned by the Government on the Rennell Oil Spill has concluded that the grounding of the ship MV Solomon Trader and the subsequent oil spill caused significant ecological impacts and economic losses in the order of US$14 million –US$38 million.

The Bunkers Convention aims to ensure that prompt and adequate compensation is available to persons inclusive of state parties, individuals and communities to claim for compensation arising from pollution damage and costs of preventative measures taken to prevent or minimise damage.

It further provides for claims to be taken directly against the insurer of the ship.

The statement said the accession to the Bunkers Convention was triggered by the grounding of MV Solomon Trader in February 2019, which spilled more than 300 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into Kagava Bay, Rennell Bellona Province.

“Now that the Convention has entered into force for the Solomon Islands, the Government is in the process of pursuing owners and insurers for compensation arising from pollution damages caused by MV Solomon Trader and the recent MV Quebec in Graciosa Bay respectively.

“The Governments’ ratification of the Convention is a step in the right direction in-line with international practices.”

The Office of the Prime Minister says the Rennell Oil Spill has also been one of the agendas which the Premier of Rennell and Bellona Province Willy Tuhagenga and his delegation discussed with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare during a courtesy visit early last week.

Sogavare strongly urged for actions to be taken to address the compensation claims.

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Lynda Wate
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