The TORREY CANYON incident in 1967 provided a major stimulus to the development of two voluntary agreements and two international conventions through which compensation was made available to those affected by spills of persistent crude oil and fuel oil from tankers. The interim voluntary agreements of TOVALOP (Tanker Owners Voluntary Agreement concerning Liability for Oil Pollution) and CRISTAL (Contract Regarding an Interim Supplement to Tanker Liability for Oil Pollution) were terminated in 1997. The international conventions – the 1969 International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (1969 CLC) and the 1971 International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (1971 Fund Convention) – were amended in 1992 by two protocols to provide higher limits and an enhanced scope of application. In 1996 these became the 1992 Civil Liability Convention and the 1992 Fund Convention. In 2003 a further protocol was adopted creating the International Supplementary Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 2003 (Supplementary Fund). In order to maintain an equitable balance between the financial burdens of the ship owners and cargo owners, two voluntary compensation arrangements were introduced in 2006 on behalf of the majority of ship owners insured through the International Group of P&I Clubs. These two arrangements are known as the Small Tanker Oil Pollution Indemnification Agreement (STOPIA) and the Tanker Oil Pollution Indemnification Agreement (TOPIA).
There is always considerable interest in the cost of spills, not least after major incidents when the attention of politicians, regulators and the media are focused on the potentially high costs of such events and the possibility that claimants may not be fully compensated.
In 2001 recognition of the problems that can be caused by spills of oil when carried as fuel by non-tankers, led to the adoption of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, which entered into force on 21 November 2008.
A convention for dealing with compensation for accidents involving hazardous and noxious substances, such as chemicals, was adopted in 1996. The International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea (HNS Convention) has yet to enter into force.
Until the HNS Convention comes into force, cases of chemical pollution fall within the scope of the 1976 International Convention on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (LLMC) and its 1996 Protocol. Under LLMC, claims are subject to limitation of liability depending to the tonnage of the vessel and are split into two categories (loss of life/personal injury and property claims). One of the driving forces behind the adoption of the HNS Convention was a general concern that the liability limits prescribed by the LLMC regime would be insufficient to cope with the magnitude of claims generated by a serious chemical incident.
Some countries which have not ratified the international compensation conventions have their own domestic legislation for compensating those affected by spills of oil and other substances from ships. Some of these may be highly specific, such as the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 in the USA, whereas other countries may rely on broader laws originally developed for other purposes.
Other conventions with relevance to marine pollution include the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as amended by the Protocol of 1978 (MARPOL), the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, 1990 (OPRC 90) and its HNS Protocol and the Nairobi Convention on Wreck Removal.