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LLMC'76 and its '96 protocol - damage caused by Wakashio in Mauritius

Damage done by the spill of 1200+mt of bunker oil from Wakashio off the Mauritius coast is no doubt an environmental catastrophe. Costs for compensation claims and clean up efforts will run into tens of millions of $s. As comparison, the clean-up bill for 2009 bunker spill (270mt) from Pacific Adventurer in Australia was $27m (excluding compensation claims for loss of income from local industries). So who is to ultimately foot the bill – shipowner (i.e. their insurers) or Mauritius?

Bunker Oil Pollution Convention would determine that, or LLMC’76 to be more specific. Based on Wakashio’s tonnage owners can limit their liability to $18m & that is because Mauritius has not ratified the 1996 protocol. Had Mauritius signed up to it then limitation would have been around $43m. Interestingly, had Wakashio been a laden tanker, then CLC & IOPC fund regimes would have been applicable instead & limitation amount would have been in hundreds of millions.

Mauritius can certainly try to break the limits but the bar has been set pretty high by LLMC's drafters and it may be near impossible for Mauritius to do so. Another way would be for Wakashio’s owners to offer to cover all costs, just as Pacific Adventurer’s owners did.

Time for IMO to revisit the limits under LLMC'76?

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