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A Disgraceful - And Dangerous - Decision (1 Viewer)

David

Well-known member
It is disgraceful that countries who offer (at high rates no doubt) the ability for company ships carrying potentially dangerous freight to be registered under a flag of convenience to get away without any responsibility when a major environmental accident occurs. Congratulating themselves publicly on the outcome is indecent and just rubs salt in the wound.

The following article from the Times of Malta is a case in point. I quote it in full below (my format markings):

Court decides for Malta in Erika damages case

by Vanessa Macdonald

Malta no longer has to worry about the possibility of bearing the responsibility for the Erika case, eliminating the potential liability of up to €1 billion in damages for the environmental pollution caused by the Maltese-flagged tanker which sank off France in December, 1999, causing widespread pollution on the French coast.

A court decision to this effect was understandably welcomed by the chairman of the Malta Maritime Authority, Marc Bonello, who breathed a sigh of heartfelt relief.

"The Erika saga taxed our office quite a bit, as we had to prove that we were not the 'pirate flag' that the French press made us out to be.

"It appeared that the French public actually felt we did not care as the pollution did not affect us here... Of course, this is absolutely untrue. We were very aware of the concerns; after all we have a very vulnerable coastline ourselves."

In September last year, the MMA chairman and executive director, Lino Vassallo went to France and told the French magistrate that, as officials appointed by the government of Malta, they were sovereign and, hence, could not be subjected to the laws of any country other than the laws of Malta.

They had also argued that they were not correctly served with the papers as required by international convention, charging them together with others, for being responsible for the incident.

The French inquiring magistrate did not accept the MMA officials' claims and demanded that they had to go to France for further investigation. They had by then, however, launched an appeal on the issue of sovereignty with the French Court of Appeal.

"We would not allow ourselves to be dragged into a court case when we knew that as a nation, we had the right to act the way we did," he told The Times.

In June 2004, the French Court of Appeal eventually ruled that there was no case against Malta. The French state appealed but the original ruling was upheld last week by the French Supreme Court.

Was this just exploiting a legal loophole?

"As any lawyer will advise you, however morally right or wrong you feel, it is important to use whatever legal means you have at your disposal. We knew we were morally right, but it was dangerous to treat the merits of the case without first going through the formal process of trying to establish whether or not we had the sovereign right to act the way we did.

"The case would have depended on how the issues were viewed by the courts. And there was a lot at stake. We are talking about €1 billion - what would that do to our national debt?" Dr Bonello wondered.

The MMA has insurance but this primarily covers costs incurred in legal proceedings, and would not apply to environmental damage.

The only help in covering the costs might have come from the International Oil Pollution Contingency (IOPC) Fund, administered by the International Maritime Organisation. This fund consists of money collected from the pro-rata contributions of oil exporters, and is meant to cover some of the expenses for cleaning up environmental pollution following a maritime incident.

Dr Bonello was defensive about the Maltese flag, thinking out loud whether some of the criticism "stemmed somewhat from a hidden desire of other member states to win back tonnage which is currently under our flag but which is beneficiary-owned by EU nationals".

"The Maltese flag is an open flag and so we register ships not only that are owned by companies that are beneficiary-owned by Maltese nationals, but also by companies, albeit Maltese ones, that can be owned by people beyond our shores.

"There is a liberal environment in so many sectors; why should shipping be the exception? Just as we sell financial services to foreign companies, so should we have a right to do so in the maritime sector - as long as this is not at the expense of maritime safety. We are a small country and need to make a living out of selling services as we have no raw materials at all, and no one should deny us this right."

During the French Court proceedings, the Malta Maritime Authority was assisted by Dr Franco Vassallo of Mamo TCV together with the French legal office of Renard and Associates of Marseilles.

For anyone feeling provoked enough to write a letter to the Times of Malta (usually with a good chance of getting it published) here are the mail addresses:

The Editor, The Sunday Times: [email protected]

The Editor, The Times: [email protected]

David
 

TexasFlyway

Hook 'em Horns
Tim Allwood said:
Exxon managed exactly the same without a flag of convenience[

What was the settlement with Exxon?

"The settlement among the State of Alaska, the United States government and Exxon was approved by the U.S. District Court on October 9, 1991. It resolved various criminal charges against Exxon as well as civil claims brought by the federal and state governments for recovery of natural resource damages resulting from the oil spill. The settlement had three distinct parts:

Criminal Plea Agreement. Exxon was fined $150 million, the largest fine ever imposed for an environmental crime. The court forgave $125 million of that fine in recognition of Exxon’s cooperation in cleaning up the spill and paying certain private claims. Of the remaining $25 million, $12 million went to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund and $13 million went to the national Victims of Crime Fund.

Criminal Restitution. As restitution for the injuries caused to the fish, wildlife, and lands of the spill region, Exxon agreed to pay $100 million. This money was divided evenly between the federal and state governments.

Civil Settlement. Exxon agreed to pay $900 million with annual payments stretched over a 10-year period. The final payment was received in September 2001. The settlement contains a "reopener window" between September 1, 2002 and September 1, 2006, during which the governments may make a claim for up to an additional $100 million. The funds must be to restore resources that suffered a substantial loss or decline as a result of the oil spill, the injuries to which could not have been known or anticipated by the six trustees from any information in their possession or reasonably available to any of them at the time of the settlement (September 25, 1991)."

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trust Council http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/facts/
 
Texas, ... u heard of Nanwalek or the Chugach people?

that website is a travesty

investigate for yourselves bf members
a shameful episode

it brought tears to my eyes when i read the way the Chugach people were treated by Exxon and the way the compay lied and blamed anyone but itself. It is an awful story.

Tim
 

TexasFlyway

Hook 'em Horns
Tim Allwood said:
Texas, ... u heard of Nanwalek or the Chugach people?

that website is a travesty

investigate for yourselves bf members
a shameful episode

it brought tears to my eyes when i read the way the Chugach people were treated by Exxon and the way the compay lied and blamed anyone but itself. It is an awful story.

Tim

Good Grief. What is your problem now? I merely pointed out that your allegation that Exxon got away the same as Erika case was false. Exxon was not exonerated and faced criminal, and civil suits.

As far as the website being a travesty, what is factually incorrect there? It outlines the court settlements and discusses where the money was spent, what it went to , and who is administering it.

Now you have bounced to the Nanwalek and Chugach people, who were not mentioned at all before, and have absolutely nothing to do with the original post of this thread and your comparing it with Exxon.
 

Konstantinos

Well-known member
Dear David:

Thank you for this piece of trully sad news.

Living on a small island, I am especially sensitive to issues of naval environmental disasters such as the Erika or the Exxon Valdeze. I am always terrified by the idea that such an accident could happen in our waters.

Thank you once again! A letter to the Times Editor is on its way!

Warmest regards,
 

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