IMO was set to discuss possible amendments to the limits of liability of the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims.
As already reported, this week"s meeting of the IMO"s Legal Committee, taking place in London on 5-9 October, was set to discuss an Australian proposal to include in its work programme for the 2010-2011 biennium an item concerning possible amendments to the limits of liability of the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976 (LLMC96) by way of tacit amendment procedure. In addition to the proposal to consider such amendments the Australian submission, put forward as a result of the Pacific Adventurer pollution incident in March 2009 resulting in the loss of 270 tons of heavy fuel oil in the sea due to damage to the ship"s bunkers, also included a proposal to look at the provisions of LLMC more generally. The Bunkers Convention, which refers to LLMC96 for calculation of the limits of liability, entered into force in Australia shortly after the time of the incident.
A large number of States supported the Australian proposal to consider the liability limits, and it was therefore decided to include this item on the next two years" work programme of the Legal Committee. Delegations were not in favour of discussing a broader revision of the LLMC. It should be noted that while States were in favour of considering the liability limits under LLMC, this does not mean that it will necessarily lead to increases in the limits. Thus, several delegations noted that, according to the information provided by the International Group of P&I Clubs, there had only been a very limited number of pollution incidents exceeding the liability limits in the Bunkers Convention and, in addition, it was considered by a number of speakers that the basis for taking a qualified decision was not present at this point, notably as the amendment procedure in the LLMC requires that a number of elements should be taken into account, including ? in addition to the experience of incidents, which had shown that only very few exceeded the existing limits, and in particular the amount of damage resulting therefrom ? also the changes in the monetary values and the effect of the proposed amendment on the cost of insurance. Also, as the Australian proposal concerned liability limits under LLMC in general and not only the Bunkers Convention, which refers to the LLMC limits, it was considered that there was a need for further information also on other types of incidents. Some delegations expressed the view that the few cases exceeding the liability limits in the Bunkers Convention were not sufficient to undertake a review, and it was confirmed on several occasions that adding the issue to the work programme of the Legal Committee did not necessarily mean that the limits of liability would be increased, but merely that the Committee undertook to discuss the issue in substance.
Following the decision of the Legal Committee, the issue will be discussed at the Committee"s next session scheduled to be held on 15-19 November 2010 in London.
The Legal Committee also discussed a number of other pertinent issues, including a draft IMO Assembly Resolution on compulsory insurance certificates under existing maritime liability conventions aimed at supporting the development of a single insurance certificate as a way of reducing the administrative burden on States and shipowners/insurers. While a majority of delegations were in favour of a mandatory solution. As a non-mandatory solution was considered ineffective, this item was removed from the work programme of the Committee. A draft Assembly Resolution on the issuance of certificates to bareboat chartered vessels under the Bunkers Convention was adopted, acknowledging that there have been different interpretations on the matter and recommending that all States party to the Convention should recognize that bunker certificates should be issued by the flag State, if this State is party to the Convention, and that States should not request more than one bunker certificate in order to avoid burdening shipowners with unnecessary bureaucracy. The draft Resolution will be considered by the IMO Assembly at its next session, taking place from 23 November to 4 December 2009.