Jun 18, 2008

Big Rise in Compensation for the victims of oil tanker spills

Big Rise in Compensation for the victims of oil tanker spills

MEDIA RELEASE

The Hon Anthony Albanese

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

June 18 2008

Today I introduced legislation into Parliament which will increase the maximum amount of financial compensation available in the event of a major oil spill from an oil tanker.

The Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 will increase the amount of compensation available to those who have established a claim for damages from approximately A$350 million to about A$1.3 billion.

In the event of a major oil spill, this compensation may be used to fund the clean-up costs and help with the recovery of affected marine environments and coastal communities.

In the unlikely event that an incident involving an oil tanker occurred, the measures provided for in this Bill will ensure that victims of oil pollution damage are able to obtain prompt, adequate and effective compensation.

In recent years, significant oil spills overseas have proven that the maximum amount of compensation afforded under the current scheme is insufficient.

For example, in the Nakhodka oil spill off the coast of Japan in 1997, the Erika spill off France in 1999 and the Prestige spill off Spain in 2002 the funds available under the existing scheme proved insufficient, with claimants unable to get the full amount of their approved compensation.

Every year some 3,500 cargo vessels as well as more than 200 oil tankers and chemical carriers navigate through Australian waters, including near environmental icons such as Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef and Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef.

A significant oil spill would be devastating to these fragile marine ecosystems.

That’s why the Rudd Government is acting swiftly and decisively to strengthen the legislative approach to protecting Australia’s pristine marine environment from pollution.

To date, Australia has suffered several notable marine incidents involving oil tankers:

  • The Princess Anne-Marie off the West Australian coast in July 1975 when approximately 15,000 tons of crude oil was spilt; and
  •  The Kirki also off the West Australian coast in July 1991, when approximately 18,000 tons of crude oil was released after the bow fell off the vessel.

The Bill I introduced today complements the Protection of the Sea (Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage) Bill 2008 which passed the House of Representatives in May 2008 and is currently before the Senate.

These two pieces of legislation will strengthen Australia’s maritime environment protection framework and align it with international best practice.

As well as planning for the unthinkable, the Rudd Labor Government will maintain Australia’s rigorous ship inspection program. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is charged with monitoring the compliance of foreign ships entering Australian ports with international safety and environment protection standards.

The Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 will place into Australian law the Protocol of 2003 to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, generally known as the Supplementary Fund Protocol.